Chris Ruen is the author of the book, “Freeloading”.
Arguments for digital piracy are drivel – it’s high time we steered away from this cultural cliff, argues author Chris Ruen.
Piracy may feel like victimless “free culture” to the user, but they are in fact participating in a digital black market. It’s not about information wanting to be free, but rather it’s about exploitative black marketeers and willfully blind tech companies wanting to get rich. They are simply capitalising on loopholes in the regulatory framework. In this sense, mass digital piracy is a symptom of underdevelopment. It’s the Internet Third World, with outdoor markets hawking counterfeit goods and purveyors bribing the local cops to look the other way.
Tech companies will go on skimming profits off the top of this black market until enlightened governments cooperate to squeeze out these illicit profiteers in an effective and transparent manner. As Google’s own Chief Economist Hal Varian has written, “all that is required is the political will to enforce intellectual property rights”.
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The New York City Chapter of the Content Creators Coalition is a new group united with the national CCC behind the idea that creators of cultural content need to join forces in order to ensure fairness and dignity for artists in the digital age. If the past fifteen years has taught us anything, it’s that artists cannot depend on industry professionals or journalists or fans to advocate for them—we must speak up for ourselves.
The group is enacting bylaws and seeking nonprofit status so we can operate and address these issues over the long-term.
Statement of Principles:
1) We believe in an Artist’s Control Of Their Work; that it’s the right of any creator of cultural content to choose when, how, and whether their work is distributed for commercial gain, monetized with advertising, or otherwise exploited.
2) We believe in the Ability to Opt-Out of services; the right of artists, writers, and other creators of cultural content to refuse, individually and collectively, to participate in business models that threaten our livelihoods.
3) We believe in Fair Pay; the right of content creators to a fair share of the wealth our work generates.
4) We believe in Collective Representation; the right of all creators of cultural content to aggregate our power to protect our livelihoods and our art forms.
If you are a NYC area creator of cultural content and would like to get involved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (or the form below). We want you at our meetings and events. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
If you are outside the New York area, please visit the national CCC website: www.contentcreatorscoalition.org.
During the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), critics of the legislation portrayed its process of identifying foreign black market domains and then blocking them from gaining easy profits from, and access to, the US online audience, as “censorship” — full stop.
It bothers me that representatives from Google or the EFF, Reddit, etc. are so quick to lump in the attempt to protect artists rights with the political censorship of China or Iran. It is entitlement of the privileged at its worst and demonstrates to me how desperate some people are to excuse freeloading by any means necessary. But, the wonders of technology simply do not excuse clear cases of exploitation.
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“WHO OWNS THE FUTURE” by JARON LANIER – BUY AT AMAZON:
The Dazzling New Masterwork from the Prophet of Silicon Valley
Jaron Lanier is the bestselling author of You Are Not a Gadget, the father of virtual reality, and one of the most influential thinkers of our time. For decades, Lanier has drawn on his expertise and experience as a computer scientist, musician, and digital media pioneer to predict the revolutionary ways in which technology is transforming our culture.
Who Owns the Future? is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy. Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries—from media to medicine to manufacturing—we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.
But there is an alternative to allowing technology to own our future. In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow. It is time for ordinary people to be rewarded for what they do and share on the web.
Insightful, original, and provocative, Who Owns the Future? is necessary reading for everyone who lives a part of their lives online.
“FREELOADING” by CHRIS RUEN – BUY AT AMAZON:
“A wonderful book that catches an encouraging shift in the zeitgeist. Ruen’s epiphany regarding the effects of his own piracy and freeloading of the bands he loves was eye opening.” – David Byrne
“Fascinating.” – The Village Voice
“The original slacker’s dream of free everything may have been realized by the Internet-but along with it came the slacker’s nightmare of never getting paid for one’s creativity. Freeloading seeks-and to a large extent succeeds-to wrestle with the collapse of the commons and the possibilities for a renewed social contract.” – Douglas Rushkoff
“Brooklyn’s Chris Ruen is one of the most compelling and forward thinking critics of our current download culture.” – M3 Music Conference, Netherlands
“A book…that promises to contribute greatly to copyright debates.” – Terry Hart, Copyhype
Author Chris Ruen, himself a former dedicated freeloader, came to understand how illegal downloads can threaten an entire artistic community after spending time with successful Brooklyn bands who had yet to make a significant profit on their popular music. The product of innumerable late-night, caffeine-fueled conversations and interviews with contemporary musicians such as Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Ira Wolf Tuton of Yeasayer, and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, Freeloading not only dissects this ongoing battle-casting a critical eye on the famous SOPA protests and the attendant rhetoric-but proposes concise, practical solutions that would provide protection to artists and consumers alike.
“FREE RIDE” by ROBERT LEVINE – BUY AT AMAZON:
“A book that should change the debate about the future of culture….With this stylishly written and well-reported manifesto, Levine has become a leading voice on one side of our most hotly contested debate involving law and technology.”
—Jeffrey Rosen, The New York Times Book Review
“Turbo-reported….Free Ride is a timely and impressive book–part guilt trip, part wake-up call, and full of the kind of reporting that could only have been done with a book advance from an Old Media company.”
“[A] smart, caustic tour of the modern culture industry.”
“Brilliant…A crash course in the existential problems facing the [media].”
—Richard Morrison, The Times
“The most convincing defense of the current predicament of the creative industries that I have read.”
—James Crabtree, Financial Times
“With penetrating analysis and insight, Levine, a former executive editor of Billboard magazine, dissects the current economic climate of the struggling American media companies caught in the powerful fiscal grip of the digital industry…. This incisive book is a start at an informed dialogue.”
“Can the culture business survive the digital age? That’s the burning question Robert Levine poses in his provocative new book. And his answer is one that will get your blood boiling. Rich with revealing stories and telling tales, Free Ride makes a lucid case that information is actually expensive – and that it’s only the big technology firms profiting most from the work of others that demand information be free.”
—Gary Rivlin, author of Broke, USA
“One of the great issues of the digital age is how people who create content will be able to make a living. Robert Levine’s timely and well-researched book provides a valuable look at how copyright protection was lost on the internet and offers suggestions about how it could be restored.”
—Walter Isaacson, President/CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Benjamin Franklin
“This book thoroughly documents a wide-spread outbreak of cyber amnesia. Despite libertarian delusions, industries often get Free Rides, especially in their early days, but they eventually give back. Taxpayers build roads, then get hired to build cars. The Internet gives back a lot in exchange for its Free Ride, but one thing it defiantly isn’t giving back is a way for enough people to make a living. No matter how amusing or addictive the Internet becomes, its foundation will crumble unless it starts returning the favors it was given and still depends on.”
—Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
“Free Ride is a brilliantly written book that exposes the dark side of the Internet. A must read for anyone interested in the horrific undermining of our intellectual culture.”
—Edward Jay Epstein, author of The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood
“Robert Levine deftly dissects the self-serving Orwellian freedom-speak being served up by Silicon Valley’s digital new lords as they amass fortunes devaluing the work of artists, journalists and other old-fashioned ‘content creators.’ Free Ride begs us to remove our blinders and take a hard look down a cultural dead-end road.”
—Fred Goodman, author of Fortune’s Fool: Edgar Bronfman Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis
“Without being a Luddite, Levine makes the phony digital media gurus of our day seem as simple-minded as their slogans.”
—Ron Rosenbaum, author of How the End Begins and Explaining Hitler
“YOU ARE NOT A GADGET” by JARON LANIER – BUY AT AMAZON:
A NATIONAL BESTSELLER
A programmer, musician, and father of virtual reality technology, Jaron Lanier was a pioneer in digital media, and among the first to predict the revolutionary changes it would bring to our commerce and culture. Now, with the Web influencing virtually every aspect of our lives, he offers this provocative critique of how digital design is shaping society, for better and for worse.
Informed by Lanier’s experience and expertise as a computer scientist, You Are Not a Gadget discusses the technical and cultural problems that have unwittingly risen from programming choices—such as the nature of user identity—that were “locked-in” at the birth of digital media and considers what a future based on current design philosophies will bring. With the proliferation of social networks, cloud-based data storage systems, and Web 2.0 designs that elevate the “wisdom” of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and wisdom of individuals, his message has never been more urgent.