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They say it is piracy. Downright stealing from other people, that’s what downloading is. You’re taking something for sale and not paying for it. Do you shoplift, or break into houses? Why should you download for free?

Making media is hard work: it cost three million dollars just to remaster, package, and advertise that latest compilation. How will artists make a living? How will real culture keep going?

Well. Maybe you didn’t exactly take something from someone. Maybe you didn’t really discover that stuff on a shelf. Maybe you weren’t going to spend all that money on that “copy-protected” thing anyway.

And these things are sticky. Music you can’t copy, films you can’t tape, files with restrictions, and collections that vanish when you swap the music player... Some companies even build phones and computers on which they are the ones who decide which programs you may run. Things worsen when the law is changed to suit these practices: in several countries, it is illegal to circumvent such restrictions.

What are you here for? What is really important in life? At the end of the year, what makes it good to you? Good time with friends and relatives? Discovering a great album? Expressing your love, or discontent? Learning new things? Having a great idea? An email from someone special?

Less important things include: a larger number of pixels – a sleek but already outdated iPod – a “premium” subscription – a quickly absorbed pay rise – lots of high-res TV watching... That’s good stuff we all enjoy, but in the end it doesn’t quite count much.

The chances are you are not going to be an exceptional astronaut. You are not going to swim across the Atlantic. You are not going to be a world leader. Life is right now. It is about sharing and expressing thoughts, ideas and feelings.

Life is not read-only. It is made of bits that cannot be sold with locks on them. If you cannot choose, try, taste, witness, think, discover, make discover, express, share, debate, it’s not worth a lot. Life should be read-and-write.

Perhaps the copyright system isn’t as legitimate as some would like you to believe. In fact Martin Luther King’s speech I Have a Dream © is still copyrighted. You are not allowed to sing Happy Birthday To You © in a movie without paying rights. The expression Freedom of Expression™ is trademarked.

File sharing is turned into a crime. People are trialed and jailed for developing technologies that enable others to share files (they call it: "Conspiracy to commit copyright infringement"). But where are the people who invented and sold video recorders, photocopying machines, and cassette players with a record button? In fact, where are the people who invented digital music players?

It is a disproportionate joke. While thousands work hard to make our children want to smoke, or to export even more landmines, sharing files –the very same files that are streamed on YouTube– makes you liable for $150,000 compensation per downloaded song.

And it is said music industry is endangered. Who wants an industry for music? Such an industry anyway? Let industries be for canned food and cars — not for creativity.

Culture is not damaged when you copy something. Creativity is not diminished when you discover something. Whole societies are improved when people learn and express things.

Participate. Enjoy. Discover. Express. Share.

So. A reasoned society where artists can make a living and you’re not a criminal because you share music is possible. A few suggestions:




  • Go to small theatres (more likely to promote artists not industries)
  • Don’t buy into restrictive media players and DRM technologies
  • Share good movies with your friends, those you believe everyone should see in their lives.



Cut Out Middleman

This webpage merely intends to link digital legislation back with everyday life. Think of it as a tiny manifesto scribbled on a train in 2006 – not a scheme for a new world order. Think hard, and write your own thoughts! This text is by Olivier Cleynen. You are free and encouraged to copy the contents of this website, including for commercial purpose, under the conditions of the CC-by license.

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In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. - Carl Sagan

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