Thursday, December 18, 2008

Content's Dark Ages

In October, Occidents Will Happen sent a very lucky correspondent to the oXcars, a copyleft festival in Barcelona. Exgae, the host of the festival, is an organization dedicated to reforming intellectual property laws.

The downloading community in Europe and elsewhere is united in resisting the suffocating system of strict copyright. In the digital age, information can no longer be considered a commodity, and so authors cannot really be proprietors of their work in the way that a hen is the proprietor of her eggs. The internet means that sharing is required of all content, and we are all the richer for it.

Los Piratas Son Los Padres is the booklet that Exgae released to coincide with the oXcars, and here is a translation of just one taste of the funny, radical, and deeply humanistic work that they do.

The Dark Ages: A General History

by Josianito

Halfway through the 21st century, the copyright protection of authors over their work was extended in perpetuity.

The content industry then decided to secure its market position by impeding new competitors, and thus gain infinite profits. For this to happen, no more authors could exist.

The abolition of the concept of “original creation” came about at the end of the 22nd century.

The action of juxtaposing different past authors’ works was called “combination.” Every person had the right to combine, but they always paid for it. There always existed a past author that held exploitation rights. If there were no trustees, then profits went to one government or other, depending on the nationality of the author. The people who made combinations were known as “combiners.”

All human culture had been painstakingly registered and digitized. Every completed combination was processed by an analysis of sophisticated algorithms that identified the correct proportions of original content and assigned percentages of profits to the original creators.

Writing thus became a hobby of the rich. As for popular culture, only haiku survived (easy to record and transmit verbally).

The classics all entered the commodities market and the prices at which they traded signified the fashion of the times. The Bible, Shakespeare and the Beatles became secure investments, the equivalents to gold in the raw materials trade.

The great crisis of the 23rd century came about when documents were unearthed which demonstrated that “Shakespeare” was a pseudonym under which many authors wrote. The impossibility of correctly identifying the author of his work shattered the confidence of the content industry, and its shareholders fell into penury. To avoid future crises of confidence (the attribution of other classics was also in question), the combination of works before 1923 was prohibited.

The Dark Ages ended after the Galileo Trial. The brilliant lawyer May Terr criticized the commercial exploitation of the Bible, arguing that the text was divinely inspired, and thus had no human authorship. The lack of any document signing over the rights to Peter, nor to the Roman Apostolic Church (the possessor at the time of exploitation rights), made piracy legal.

This decision brought about the greatest economic crisis in history. The stock market price and the combination system were suspended. God was called upon, but he didn’t show up. Finally, under careful analysis all texts were attributed to God, although subsequent testing cast doubt on the existence of the Author. After a thirty year trial, the judge decreed that God did not exist (His having not shown up was a decisive factor), and so all previous decisions were null and void.

And afterward the entire content industry went bankrupt.