Monday, December 24, 2007

Consumerville USA Versus Creatorville USA

I have been attempting to formulate a position in regards to Fair Use and Copy Rights over the last couple of weeks. What I have really been trying to do is understand the issues from a perspective that incorporates my beliefs without compromising logic. However, as stated earlier, the difference in the perspectives of the opposing sides is so drastically different that what seems obviously logical to one side is illogical and more likely immoral to another side

From a Civic Media perspective I support Fair Use. From the perspective of entrepreneurs and artists protecting proprietary content I support Copy Rights. The problem is to understand the abuse that comes from both sides. Large media corporations abuse Copy Right by denigrating Fair Use, while many, the young being the most suspect, abuse Copy Rights by illegal downloads for free use.

I couldn't help but wonder if there isn't a common factor in all of this and I believe I found it from another source. Karrie Higgins reviewed two new books in the Los Angeles Times. The title of the article provides both a synopsis of the books and the perspective the reviewer takes.

Escape from Consumerville - Los Angeles Times.

"ONE of the great ironies of living in a consumerist culture is that, in pursuit of success, so many of us unwittingly surrender our freedom. We confuse career and consumer choices with personal liberty, when in fact they all represent the same underlying decision: to buy into the system that produced them. Two new books -- "Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity" by Anne Elizabeth Moore and "The Freedom Manifesto" by Tom Hodgkinson -- remind us that we have other options. We can resist rampant consumerism despite its infiltration into every corner of our culture. The key is to reject the competitive ethos at the core of capitalism and embrace failure."

I have, previously, taken a position against this line of reasoning. The motives are honorable and I readily agree with turning against over-consumption,in fact almost every phrase in the article, we do confuse career and consumer choices with personal liberty, yet I still have to take a stand in opposition to this philosophy. My first fundamental objection, saying that "we buy into the system that produced them", is only half the story. We also collectively produce that system. The people shopping in Wal-Mart worked someplace else creating goods or services to make their purchase possible. Yes, we can argue that manufacturing jobs went over seas but people there are also both producing and buying into the system. I may agree that nobody should buy a Hummer, but I also recognize that somebody will be out of a means of support. Yes, there are substitute industries which are less harmful to the environment and more beneficial to humanity. That is not, however, the key that is being sought, rather the, "key is to reject the competitive ethos at the core of capitalism and embrace failure." Perhaps this word is being used in a special manner, but it still strikes me as a dismal philosophy.

This is, to my mind, the common factor in the Fair Use/Copy Rights debate. We have come to think of ourselves as a country of consumers, not producers or creators. The majority of the young see themselves as only as consumers with no stake in producing anything of value and little reason to compensate multi-million dollar media corporations who are seen as amoral if not immoral. The multi-million dollar media companies have no moral foundation as they have purposely worked to turn us into a nation of consumers and now seek to solidify their advantage into perpetuity. This is where I can completely agree with the philosophy Ms. Higgins expounds.

We part company in that I still believe in a Democratic/Free Enterprise system. I see too much in the world today that gives me faith that working for creative excellence is the best means of helping the world and even with all of its faults the Free Enterprise system guided with democratic principles is still the best means to achieve that. This though is not though the end of my philosophical conundrums. I am still opposed to completely unfettered markets in the Milton Friedman ideal.

This strikes me as being especially true regarding the concept of Creative-Destruction. In the "New" Economy, the destruction portion begins immediately upon bestowing your creation on the world. We seem to be entering a world of just-in-time obsolescence. The question is how do we formulate a basis of interacting with each other that works. What I have written here does not really resolve anything. It merely puts down some more evolving thoughts on a complex subject.

In a past post I wrote that, "I do not believe is the Generation X and Y are immoral as a whole. They are defining themselves differently but doing so those not make them immoral even if they don't follow old rules." The trouble with this line of reasoning is that the fact that they don't agree with our morality does not mean they by default automatically have one of their own. What I quoted in the same post from Professor Cornwall seems all the more important.

Whether it's in everyday life or in the business world, we have to be careful not to boil morality down to a simple list of don''s that serves as a checklist of how to be ethical. Business ethics should so much more than a list of rules to follow. It should be a much broader set of standards of how we treat one another.

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