We live in a massively globalized society in which the Internet plays an integral role in connecting people, culture and traditions. While the advent of the Internet has been an impetus for great social, cultural and political change, it has also raised some serious issues. Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture explores the relationship between piracy and property through a critical lens. He lends himself to the school of thought that piracy is bad and should be punished but that if society is to embark on the mission to “rid the world of Internet “pirates” [it] will also rid our culture of values that have been integral to our tradition from the start.” The music industry is a great example of an element of our culture that is struggling to deal with music pirates. For example, the law sets a fixed price for a song and the music industry execs and artists make money from sales, marketing efforts, residuals and appearances. Threatening to undermine this long-established economic system is the process of peer-to-peer file sharing which is similar to pirates. People who partake in this sub-culture of music appropriation are able to escape a very controlling industry and exploit distributed content. An important question that we raised in class about file sharing is how it differs from stealing a CD from a store? Of course, there are obvious immediate consequences for stealing material from a physical location- not only is one unlawfully taking an item but they are inhibiting the potential profit of the middleman (the music store). However P2P file sharing promotes a conversation that needs to be had between a musician’s audience. It's a reactionary form of conversation that fosters creativity and allows the audience to be both the listener and the creator.
I for one am obsessed with the fashion world and feel that there is an avenue on the web, in the form of blogging, that gives me the leisure to express my passion for fashion and interact with that industry. If someone copyrighted fashion blogging, it would limit the countless numbers of fashion blogs out there. This past spring term I studied in London and had an internship with an online magazine where I contributed a weekly fashion blog. My assignment was to write about current happenings in the fashion community as well as culture as a whole. Here's an example of one of my blogs about the one-shouldered romper trend in London, where I featured one of the season's pieces from TopShop: http://www.sheerluxe.com/blogs/2011/06/elegantly-playful.aspx . If TopShop prohibited fashion enthusiasts (like myself among many others) from pulling pictures from their website and talking about styling the pieces it would limit their ability to stay at the forefront of the street fashion industry. I was able to speak freely, critically and admiringly about one of their best pieces from their Spring/Summer collection and even led other to purchase the item as well.
Lessig offers an example of a harmonious relationship between the "pirate" and "property" like the doujinshi market in the Japanese culture that is essentially a copycat of the popular manga cartoons. One is able to exist because of the other. Doujinshi flourishes because of manga and serves as a unique form of marketing for the manga market. To take, to modify and thus create from the work of others is part of this new culture that the Internet is helping create. The music industry will find a way to navigate through the rising habits of music listeners that share files rather than purchase them in order to create a new, fully functioning composite culture (that will hopefully make everyone happy at the end of the day).
Lessig, Lawrence. "Introduction." Free Culture: the Nature and Future of Creativity. New York: Penguin, 2005. 1-13. Print.