During an interview with a gentleman from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about EFF’s lawsuit against Viacom (the owner of the Comedy Central network) over internet copyright issues involving Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube for posting clips from the Colbert Report, Stephen “the Eagle” Colbert tonight declared: “Librarians are hiding something!™” as an example of a phrase he was trademarking as his own creation and insisting that no one should repeat on the Net. (That’s the longest sentence I’ve written in months.)
We Have Been Warned. All of us who are concerned about issues of intellectual property rights and freedom of the Nets should be sure not to repeat the phrase, “Librarians are hiding something!™” online, for fear that Stephen (and Viacom) will lose the fortune this phrase would otherwise earn them. I certainly will be careful not to repeat the phrase, “Librarians are hiding something!™” as I’m sure Stephen wishes all his fans would be.
Yes, serious. In his own special way, Colbert is simultaneously making fun of and spotlighting a serious issue: how do we define intellectual property rights in the 21st century and should corporations, as distinct from the actual minds that create new ideas, be allowed to own ideas?
I’m a professional writer. While I’m pleased that many other authors use ideas from my books, I usually don’t get even a footnote, let alone a cut of royalties, from those who do. Yet, if you are trying to change the world through what you write, paint, sing, or otherwise create, at what point is it appropriate to let your creations dive into the global memepool to mutate and reproduce freely? Often those other authors have no idea that they are repeating words I coined or principles I was the first to explicate–can I blame them for having picked up concepts third or fourth hand?
Yes, I know there’s an entire subspecies of legal shark searching for exactly such multiply-descended usages of once original materials (at least ones that made money somewhere along the line), yet somehow I’ve never felt the need to hire such predators to defend my rights. (I was really miffed about the pirated editions of Real Magic in Russia and China, but that’s another, if related, story.)
As a political note, this is related to the fears that professional political consultants and the MSM have about losing control of the universe of political discourse to the unwashed masses and their anarchic video editing and posting skills.
Is copyright obsolete? Or is it merely subordinate to more important principles such as freedom of speech and the (electronic) press? There’s an old saying to the effect that freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns oneâ€”is it time to expand that right to all of us on the Net? Furthermore, since corporations are not people (no matter what SCOTUS says) and do not have ideas, should they be allowed to own ideas that were created by real people?
Tell me what you think, but remember not to repeat: “Librarians are hiding something™”
[Cross posted at The Daily Kos]]