The following is a copy of my hasty letter to the Canadian Copyright consultations going on right now. Please send your own while there’s time.
I put a lot of work into my art and, yes, I would love to one day be able to quit my day job to pursue my artistic endeavours full time. There’s a lot changing in the record industry and the publishing industry, and for the little guy, most of it’s good. My enemy is not piracy, it’s obscurity. Please don’t pretend that you’re helping me realize my dreams by creating harsher copyright laws. You’re not. In fact, I’m hard pressed to figure out what sort of creator extending the length of copyright past what it is now (life + 50 years, I believe) will help. Certainly not the guys just starting out. I’d be happy with a 10-20 year span before the works I create fall into the public domain. In fact, shortening the length of copyright is far more reasonable given the faster pace of the world today.
The stories of how much a musician actually gets from his own record sales when under a record company contract are well known… so well known that most musicians I know no longer want a record deal and even some of the major players are getting out of their contracts as soon as they can. The creators are busy forging new roads. The best way to help us to do that is to simply stay out of our way. You’re dealing with some powerful lobbyists, I know. They’ll tell you that culture will go down the drain if you don’t step up the laws on copyright. In fact, relaxing the laws may do more to encourage culture than anything. It just won’t help the guys looking to get rich off of my (and other artists’) work.
Look at the Internet today. It has permeated every part of our lives and opened up communication dramatically. When I was a child, I needed access to a set of encyclopedias to find out about something. Now I can get that knowledge instantly, for free… online. Imagine how things might have been different had that knowledge not been so easily accessible over the last few years. We are creating more than we ever have before, enabling more people to create, and despite a huge recession brought about by non-creators looking to make a fast buck, creativity goes on unhindered.
The only thing you can do to stifle creativity is to put more control of it in the hands of corporate types.
I visited my local public library for the first time in years a month or so back. I make enough money these days to buy the books I’m interested in as soon as they come out. And it’s impossible to estimate how much of an edge that gives me on my competition: to be able to read about the newest theories, the newest programming languages, to explore philosophy and science on my own time whenever I need to and without having to wait for someone else to be done with their copy. When I visited the library, I was struck by how many people there were obviously much poorer than I was. Whereas for me, this was a curiosity, a place where I might find a book I wanted to read and didn’t want to buy, for them it was the only place they could afford to get new knowledge. And I realized how much of a disadvantage that put them at. The maddening thing is that at this point in history, the lack of availability of a new book is completely artificial. In reality, all of these people could have the latest and greatest information at no cost to us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t compensate creators for their work. I’m one of them. But I think that the compensation should be looked at fairly. How much easier is it to create and have a voice than it was 10 years ago? A lot. I don’t have to risk as much to create. Consequently, I don’t have as much claim to higher rewards.
Don’t worry. Creators will find ways to make a living off of what they do, no matter what. They’ll still create as much as they can without that. And every day, thanks to the biggest example of information sharing (the Internet), some of the brightest minds are coming up with new models and ideas to support art and culture without that support coming at the expense of the public.
Three strikes and you’re out? Copyright extension? Fining people outside of the court system? These are all things I’m hearing about in other countries and that I hope Canada will stay away from. How about a three strikes you’re out policy towards companies making spurious copyright claims (make 3 claims against someone that turn out to be false and you get YOUR internet taken away)? How would a record company do business without the Internet? But that would be fair given that they want to take that form of communication away from a citizen without even proper court proceedings.
Please consider this when you’re making your decisions. You were elected by us, not your lobbyists. Don’t make it harder to create so that a few can make way more money than they deserve. Encourage creativity. Get out of our way.