This weeks reading involved the issue of piracy in the digital age. In Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture he delves into the issue of culture is formed by commercial and noncommercial means. Lessig points out that noncommercial culture has an impact on how the culture is formed and progresses. He states that, “the ordinary ways in which ordinary individuals shared and transformed their culture—telling stories, reenacting scenes from plays or TV, participating in fan clubs, sharing music, making tapes—were left alone by the law.” Lessig sees that our very culture may be threatened due to, “This rough divide between the free and the controlled has now been erased.”
Lessig fears that the newly established permission culture threatens to undermine “the right to build freely upon their past.” This as a result threatens to take away the creativity of our culture, and the past times that the people enjoy. The inability to separate the commercial from the noncommercial acts of piracy has lead to problems within our culture. According to Lessig, “The consequence is that we are less and less of a free culture, more and more of a permission culture.” This effect threatens novice creators as they spread ideas that affect our culture.
For instance the Colbert Report covered a story on the “Underground Piracy of Warren Michigan” headed by the pirating “kingpin” Fred-Merle. Stephen’s hilarious satire of the events shows the problems that Lessig has worried about. Here is a man who is in charge of running the “Polka Party” which is a public access program in Warren. He decided to make some DVDs for the people who enjoyed the music and charged them 15 dollars per DVD. This resulted in him being arrested and forced to pay $450 dollars to the court. This is a driving point behind Lessig’s argument, as the lines between the commercial and noncommercial thin, the ability to charge someone for spreading a pastime such has polka has increased. Before the age of the Internet people spread content fairly easily by recording a movie on vhs and giving it to a friend to enjoy. Now due to the developing permission culture law enforcement is stepping in on the free culture and its ability to spread enjoyment, such as polka music. This enforcement of the spread of culture with nearly zero financial implications are absurd and shows how irrationally the laws are now written. If people are charged for spreading ideas then creativity will take a backseat to big corporation financial gains. According to Lessig, this “will also rid our culture of values that have been integral to our tradition from the start,” and no one in America wants to see that.