Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Technology, Copyright and the Future

In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock.  It is one of the most far reaching and prophetic books ever written.

Toffler, who at 84 is still thinking and writing about the future, dissected the exponentially growing rate of change and the impact it would have on psyches and society.  According to Toffler, as knowledge grows at faster and faster rates, people know less and less of the knowable universe, and with that comes a dramatic impact on the ability of people to feel grounded and secure in the world around them.

Over the past decade, this has hit full force for writers, publishers and others who live in a world of words.  The internet, the demise of brick and mortar book stores, and the the growth of ebooks have changed publishing and writing forever.

Publishing and writing is experiencing much of what the music industry encountered a decade ago with streaming, Napster, infringement lawsuits, and finally Itunes andIpods.  It was the genius of Steve Jobs and his little devise that showed the industry a way to make money in the age of portable digital music.

Kindle and Amazon have slipped into the place Steve Jobs created within the music business. We have seen the future and it is digital.  Hell, we are in the future.

Which brings us to writing, publishing and copyright in our electronic future. Tim Parks has written a wonderful essay, "Does Copyright Matter,"  in the New York Times Book Review.  The article challenges writers -- and everyone -- to think about the concept of copyright in this modern world.  It's not a new battle.  As Parks points out, Charles Dickens battled his own unauthorized versions.  But today's landscape is much different.

In today's world, it is so easy to find something on the internet, to copy and paste with a couple of clicks, and post whatever you find, no matter how extensive, to the entire world.  In such a world, what does copyright mean? 

In this digital present, we need to ask two important questions:

(1)  Are we ourselves guilty of this unthinking use of the intellectual property of others;  and

 (2) Are we degrading the value of our intellectual work product, imbuing upcoming generations with a value system that says "if it's on the internet, I can use it."

I don't have a crystal ball and cannot see the future - certainly not as well as Alvin Toffler.  But for those of us who write,  it is  worth some thought. 

1 comment:

  1. This makes me think of a post by a writer who was using some photos from the Internet for her blog. She received a cease and desist on using the photos and was taken to court and lost over the ones she had already used without permission. I think she had to pay about 1000 dollars. Not sure.

    That really opened my eyes. I had only used my own photos on my blog. However, I had cut and pasted information from other people and simply given them credit. I told where the info. was published, who wrote it, and whatever information seemed pertinent. What I learned from this person taking pictures, I think, is that giving the person credit is not enough. You have to get their permission first AND then give them credit.

    Any thoughts on that, Steve?