After [Andrew Grumet](http://blog.grumet.net/) pointed me to [zeFrank](http://zefrank.com/theshow), I’ve been watching it more often. The last two episodes on copyright infringment and it’s implications are a subtle but effective call to action. As more and more people are able to create their own content, it devalues professional creative works. That means that people’s perception of the value of a video is different today than it was years ago because there’s “so much of it” laying around.
Here’s an allegory:
In times past, a farmer had an apple farm. It was the only apple farm for miles. People paid the farmer for access to the apples, sometimes with money and sometimes with goods and services. The amount of apples each person took was generally equal to the amount of money or goods traded.
As time marched on, other people in the area tried to grow apples. A few were successful as apple farmers and, in their excitement, passed on the knowledge to others. Soon, nearly everyone could grow their own apples and many did.
The old farmer’s life had changed since the early days. Many people took apples from his farm and gave them to others. Their reasoning was that since everyone seemed to have all of the apples they needed, there was no harm in taking apples from anyone since they wouldn’t be missed.
Returning to real life…
People who create things for a living do so in exchange for value. Very few people I know simply create something for the greater good of humankind. Brent Simmons writes software so he and his wife (and his employer) can pay their bills, go on vacations and even save for retirement. My wife (a metalsmith) creates jewelry to sell to galleries and retail shops. She hopes that making things in exchange for money will become a way of life for her. Her designs are copyrighted as a way to protect her *intellectual* property. That property is real, even though it’s hard to see. You can’t dig up that property plant a garden and that concept of the tangible is hard to understand for younger generations.
A typical 18 to 24 year old person that has the equipment and knowledge to copy a Daily Show video from TV to their computer will quickly share that file with others. Some will even post that video to a site like YouTube.
In nearly all cases, it comes down to social status. People can gain social status by performing feats not generally thought possible. I’m sure there plenty of people who think that posting a Daily Show video on YouTube is possible, but not easy. Those people place the poster in a higher social status than others. Notice I didn’t say more positive, just higher. To one group, that person is a social aggravator or practices civil disobedience. To another, that same person is a greater (or higher) threat to intellectual property.
What this comes down to is something we’ve all heard and most ignore:
“If everyone put their head in a toilet, would you?”
In other words, just because you can find hundreds or thousands of copyrighted video clips on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s OK to post more. Just because your cell phone has a camera, you can’t take pictures of pages in a magazine so you can use that information later. The creator of that content has rights and in most cases, the publisher of the content has paid the creator to access and distribute that content. When you upload a copyrighted video clip or take pictures of a MAKE Magazine project with your cell phone camera, you’re stealing. Period.
Your personal integrity is sometimes the only measure of your character. Each upload or picture dilutes the purity of your personality until what’s left is only a fraction of it’s former worth.
Get up from your computer and go look in a mirror. Ask yourself *out loud* if you’ve ever stolen something. Your integrity will answer. You’ll also know it’s time to stop.