Translated to English by Donatas Pocius.
After I have written about the powers which have their own interests to push ACTA, there were a lot of talks, but only in the comment no. 130-something (that was article in Lithuanian, published in another my blog) one person finally named what position I represent. Yes, some kind of ideological pirate visited my blog and immediately recognised the enemy. Recognised in the way that people recognise ideological enemies – those with whom there is nothing to negotiate about. Such enemies, about whom it is said that there are us and there are them.
Yes, I am an author. Yes, if I would try to count how much money I have made during my lifetime only from writing (probably my third most important activity), the resulting sums would be very substantial (some of my younger readers might have not earned this much during their lifetimes). Yes, I am interested in taking money from readers, because I know I can earn from what I create. Yes, for very pragmatic and mercantilist reasons I am an anti-pirate and the apologist of authors’ rights. And so on. I do not deny this. It is true.
It is strange that a couple of days have passed, there were huge discussions where I was being attacked by the defenders of allegedly my (or other authors’) rights, and the whole deal was cracked by a real, ideological pirate. Maybe it is even a sign. I belong to the old generation. To those who have to disappear from the internets. And those who are replacing us – we cannot understand them, they are entirely different from us, we cannot even perceive their thinking. But they recognise us. Such as myself or as those guys who so resented me and argued without even understanding what is really going on. It is just that people such as myself or those other anti-pirates already do not understand how the world has changed.
By the way, in that other article I proposed to the anti-pirates speaking particular nonsense to pay for reading my article. And I did so very honestly: they could read, they could evaluate, and then decide whether they want it or not. I did not propose to buy a pig in a poke, as those to legally go to cinemas have to. For some reason none of the anti-pirates were interested, but I do not think this is because of entirely pure hypocrisy. It is much more likely that they simply do not believe in that idea of payment themselves, thinking it is futile. Maybe, in their point of view, even the attempt to show that there is at least one honest fighter for authors’ rights would not pay off.
But I do not want to talk about them, I want to talk about the changes. Because as unpleasant as it is to accept this, I am also an anti-pirate. An anti-pirate, because I am trying to find a way to save the currently existing system of authors’ rights. That system, which is not needed by the new generation. That system, which, let us be honest, is simply collapsing.
Piracy and revolution
Yes, just like mister Mhm correctly identified, I am trying to revive a corpse, and those who pirate out of idea are simply welcoming various ACTA, PIPA ant other laws and agreements. I am trying to find some sort of scheme where the authors could receive the money, where the business profiting from the authors could survive and so on. A scheme which would be at least to some extent acceptable for all of the most important sides. I am just a realist and I see the real situation. The real situation is also seen by the pirates, who are simply revolutionaries. The same kind of revolutionaries as Lenin. Of course, my attempts are hardly meaningful – the compromise solutions are rarely successful.
A long time ago Lenin said one of famous phrases – “the worse the better”. He had in mind various persecutions by tsarist okhranka directed against various oppositional organisations. The more persecutions, the more people suffer. The more people suffer, the more opponents of the system appear. The more opponents of the system – the closer the collapse of the regime. Lenin used the lumpenproletariat – various homeless, thieves, prostitutes etc., in other words those who for one reason or another are outside the legal boundaries. Those who, whether they want it or not, already are the hottest opponents of the system. The “the worse the better” uttered by Lenin meant one thing: the more the authorities persecute everybody, the more the lumpenproletariat grows, the more people are out of boundaries. The more everyone is criminalised, the more powerful becomes the group of people who will implement the revolution. It is obvious that Lenin knew the revolutionary business perfectly.
Nowadays there are no such people who were lumpen back then. Thieves, homeless, prostitutes are not numerous, they do not make any substantial share. To keep them silent, the authorities pay various benefits. It is a clever policy. But now there is another stratum which replaced the lumpenproletariat – it is various pirates, Anonymous, hackers, etc. These people are in opposition not because of economic reasons, but because of some other reasons. Informational, probably.
The tougher is the fight against piracy, the more people are out of these boundaries. In Lithuania, probably, already about half of people are using internet. And the vast majority has pirated something in one place or another. Some consciously, some unconsciously. Some pirated software, some movies, some music, the others something else. Not important what. Maybe somebody just purchased a computer full of pirated software. Somebody got infected with a trojan, which opened an anonymous FTP in their computer*, somebody else pirated in some other way. Maybe because of the pictures saved in browser’s cache, or some other trivial stuff. One and a half million pirates. By the way, some anti-pirates call this thing theft. I would think nobody has ever stolen anything from them, otherwise they would know the real difference. But that is not the point.
There have been very few revolutions in the world which did not bring violence, terror and victims. Even the unbelievably peaceful, simply miraculous Singing Revolution in Lithuania – even this one had victims. Between ten and twenty people were killed by Soviet troops. Hundreds were injured. Because there are no revolutions without victims and violence.
There is no difference for me, whether the victims of the pirate revolution would be pirates or anti-pirates – I do not want any violence. I think that human empathy should be higher than any ideology. The human empathy is more important than the freedoms of information or ideologies of authors’ rights. None of the ideas, none of the ideologies can justify violence, coercion, and terror.
The world is changing. Those who do not change with it are going down.
Not so long ago Kodak went bankrupt. That company was one of the pioneers of photography, just a couple of decades ago this corporation was a real monster of the photo industry. That company failed to change, although the whole world has changed. Digital cameras became available, and they were in every way more convenient: they could store many times more pictures, you could see the resulting picture before taking it, the failures could be immediately deleted, and the good ones could be immediately transferred into the computer and shared with friends on the internet. This was not possible with the film camera. But Kodak dragged on using their last efforts and did not want to change. They did not want to understand the reality. When they finally understood it and tried to go into the digital market, it was too late.
Kodak had a huge problem: their market was film-based. Trying to manufacture and distribute digital cameras themselves would have meant competing with themselves. Even more, it would have meant losing piles of investments put into manufacture and distribution of photographic film. The management of Kodak saw the new technologies as destruction of their business. That is why they did all they could to oppose them. This is what was the real reason of their decline: they dragged on for so long that they finally missed the train.
Precisely the same is happening at the moment with various industries of authors’ rights. They have a business which has worked perfectly well for decades. But everything is changing: you do not need to visit a number of stores to find a record of a suitable performer. You do not need to be afraid that there is no such record in stock and suffer waiting for a few weeks when you order it. And if you are unlucky, there will be nothing to order, because some band did not make it into some sort of list. If you buy something online – everything is in place, immediately.
The same conveniences are now enjoyed by the authors too: the amateurs do not need any recording studios. A teenager can mix, play and sing some song, and record it sufficiently well for it to be listened by thousands of people. And then distribute it online. He does not need any middlemen, who would take all the authors’ rights, decide themselves whether it should be distributed or not, etc. Such agency business, which was booming a few decades ago, loses its sense.
The various agencies protecting the authors’ rights lose sense even more: previously they were used to manage regional and non-systemic sales. To be more exact – to collect the money because collecting the money in other countries or from some sort of non-systemic consumers would be too tricky for the usual companies holding the authors’ rights. Now it is not clear what those authors’ rights agencies are needed for: the internet has erased the boundaries among countries, and non-systemic sales have not been a problem for a long time, because there are automated online sales. Some sort of company can easily create an online shop and sell songs all over the world to everyone based on all types of licences – personal, coffee shop, radio station licences and any other. Who will need any agencies of the RIAA or LATGA-A type, when such sales become commonplace?
The pirates are frightening to the old companies not because they steal anything. In reality the vast majority of those who copy something for themselves from the internet would not buy it even if they could buy it 10 times cheaper. Because either they do not need it, or they just want to find out something, or they do not have any money, or they are greedy, or, finally, they are ideological pirates. And the majority of those who would buy usually buy nevertheless. During the last 10 years the internet has grown incredibly, but during those same 10 years the aggregate turnovers of the music and movie industries have also grown. By the way, mostly probably because of companies with a new type of attitude – the Apple’s music sales or Teo with their “Gala” system could be such examples.
The pirates are a problem to the owners of authors’ rights because they develop and distribute new technologies and new ways to exchange information. Such technologies and ways, which the industry fails to follow. And because it fails to follow, the authors find it simpler to find new direct ways to the customers, and the customers – to find new ways straight to the authors. Without any intermediaries.
If you look even deeper, you can see that the problem is the same as in the case of Kodak: huge investments are put into all sorts of obsolete technologies, ways of advertising, organisations etc. A long time ago CDs were a similar, but smaller problem: many various music industry companies were opposed as long as they could, because huge money was put into manufacturing and production of vinyl records. In the management it is known as a syndrome of sunk costs: the company puts money down the drain, and later continues to put it, foolishly expecting that this drain is worth something if so much money has already been put down it. A similar story later was repeated with digital cassette players, although here the industry won – the technology was killed. And now everything is happening again with the internet.
With the internet the trouble is bigger: it is unstoppable, and the changes which the industry needs are radical. New technologies are not sufficient. The industry, if it wants to move into the internet, needs to transform completely, create completely new processes and management methods. But they understand this as destruction of their own business. And this is why they are dragging on. But the train does not wait.
The internet revolution and the opposition to it
It is self-explanatory that nobody wants risky changes. The internet forces such changes on the owners of authors’ rights. How strong these changes are we can understand from the fact that we have to reinvent the very concept of authors’ rights and its meaning. Are the ideas, thoughts, music, sights and narratives truly identical to property, such as bricks, potatoes, money, dildos, furniture, toilet bowls, stones and beavers? We could philosophise all we want, but probably could not equate them. Of course, we see that the concepts such as “intellectual property”, “piracy” etc. are being constructed, and afterwards the world of ideas is being equated to the material world. If you look at it soberly – that is an obvious symptom of schizophrenia, but it is interesting how this symptom turns into monetary income of its carriers, and into the schizophrenic legal system for the society. As an author, I am entirely not against this.
But let us take a simpler look: the world is simply changing. And how can you react to those changes? Basically, in two ways: either you go with them, or you fight against them. Going with them means going where the pirates, hackers, Anonymous etc. are going. Unfortunately, it is out of boundaries. A revolution with all its consequences. Yes, I have already confessed I am an anti-pirate. I understand that everything what is happening is inevitable, and that is why I am looking for some solutions, compromises, common sense, less radical schemes. However, the world is changing and this is it. And those changes may only be stopped if somebody destroys the computers and the internet. Not only limits them, but completely destroys. Because no limitations are going to help, they will just slow down the whole deal and grow the opposition (let us remember Lenin’s “the worse the better”).
There is a type of symptom in business and management, when the company says that the problems are not inside it, but somewhere outside. The market is to blame, the customers are bad – this is the cause of all trouble. Such a symptom always means that all of the company’s troubles are internal, and their essence is the inability to respond to customer’s needs. In such companies the stagnation is so deep that they start working not for the market, but for some sort of vague internal purposes. And the worse the internal situation is, the more horrendous is the discrepancy. When the company starts fighting against its clients, this already means that unhealthy disorientation, stagnation and disorder has surpassed all the possible limits – the organisation is already unable to understand from whose money it lives. It terrorises the clients, and when they try to escape and find some alternatives it starts to persecute them. This stage is utterly hopeless, such companies convulse for a while and finally collapse.
Of course, the duration of the agony depends on the size of the company. The music and movie industry is not a simple company, it is a vast system acting as some sort of supermegacorporation. Some years will pass before it dies. But it is hopeless. One or another of the currently existing companies will reinvent itself and will survive. The others will fight against their own clients until it is too late. By the way, please remember here the deadly diseases of management. And if you think deeper, you will see that the symptoms of these diseases in the music and movie industry are abundant. The fight against pirates is number seven. And also you should add two clear violations of the value-added cycle – incapability to be customer-oriented and strangling of suppliers.
Yes, it is the failure to understand the reality, connected to the unwillingness to change, the fear of changes, the buried hopeless money, the new growing competition, the failure to understand the essence of their own business, and simply habits. And even more it is the inability to get out of their own box and see the whole deal from aside. Everything piles up, and the result is the strange attitude that the customers are to blame, the competition is to blame, and even that these customers and competitors are criminals. They are not letting them make the money, so this makes them thieves.
Yes, I am also opposed this revolution, because I want to somehow save from the system of authors’ rights the things I think can be saved. I am trying to save something which was good in that system. I am trying to save something which brought money to me. The pirates or hackers fighting for the absolute freedom of information do not need that. It is clear to them that there are them and there are people like me. People like me are their enemies. And they know they will win, because that world from which I came is doomed, however it might resist. And I know too that they will win.
The protectors of authors’ rights even now are the minority: half of Lithuanians are pirates, and the remaining half will become pirates during the next decade. But this minority is still strong, still able to take radical measures, limit the internet, incarcerate, provide mass censorship, terror etc. This minority at the moment still has piles of money and crowds of lobbyists and experienced PR agents. This minority can give some fight before giving up completely. But is it needed? Does the purpose justify the means? And is that purpose worth something? Do I want it myself? Would I like it if my children would have to live in a world like this?
I know what is the total control of information, because I still remember the Soviet times and how the world view differed back then because of it. If you try to imagine a worst case scenario, the commercial control of information would work somewhat differently than the communist one, many things you could get for money, but it would be much more effective, total. People are already now being sent to jail for piracy. Huge fines are introduced. Under ACTA, these measures can become radically stricter. And those changes are simple: you put one person in jail, then another, then one more. The others start to be afraid. Then you can put some more into jail. Then the mass fear begins. This is when the mass terror starts, because everyone is already afraid to do anything. And necessarily there is someone who abuses this at a much wider scale than expected by those who started the terror. Finally, a full-blown nightmare starts.** And I know, how many groups which want this there are. But is my money which I might make worth it? Is my money worth any smallest risk that everything may turn into terror?
I do not know if there is any noticeable difference between me and the apologists of authors’ rights who resented me. Maybe it is only that I am trying to understand the changing reality and adapt to it together with all my ethical norms and understanding of good and evil. The others, meanwhile, are trying to deny those changes and fight them, although it is futile. But basically we all are the same – the sellers of authors’ rights, who have earned smaller or larger sums from this. This is why the pirates, despite my attempts to discuss, despite my opposition against ACTA, SOPA and a bunch of other things, still see the enemy in me. One of those who want to save the system of authors’ rights. Yes, they are right – I am an anti-pirate.
Yes, there are them and there are us. But I think. And this is exactly why I am against ACTA.
* Such a way of creating hacked FTP servers was very popular some 10 years ago. Piles of pirate servers were in the computers of unknowing people. I do not know how it is now.
** The emergence of total terror out of nowhere has been beautifully described by Anatoly Rybakov. Of course, he is remembered only by those who remember the Soviet times. At the very end of perestroika, the first, the mildest book of his trilogy was translated to Lithuanian as well (although the translation was dull). The terror creeps slowly, but it spreads until it is transformed into fear. The first symptoms are innocent, unnoticeable, many believe that only the criminals are punished, but the terror spreads and you understand that it may touch you as well. The simple life becomes fear. Fear of everything. Because the terror is universal, and you may never know when they will knock at your door. It is scarier than any horror movie – this is life.
I’t like to thank Donatas Pocius again – this article was translated to English by him. That’s the piracy: you write for free and you get free translators and supporters. And that isn’t bad, huh?