Intellectual property owners are destroying our cultural
commons. But according to critic Siva Vaidhyanathan, peer-to-peer
networks are transforming politics, culture, and the control of
information in ways that may pave the way to a renewal of cultural
democracy. Vaidhyanathan is an assistant professor of Culture and
Communication at New York University and author of
Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and
How it Threatens Creativity (NYU Press, 2001). He spoke
recently with Minneapolis writer Paul Schmelzer. Here are a few
choice bits from this fascinating interview, posted on Schmelzer?s
On the importance of free access to creative culture:
?Both democracy and creative culture share this notion that they
work best when the raw materials are cheap and easy and easily
distributed. You can look at any cultural development that?s made a
difference in the world?reggae, blues, crocheting?and say, y?know,
it?s really about communities sharing.?
On the folly of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA):
?The DMCA was a radical shift in how we regulate culture. It
took the regulation of culture away from human beings, courts, and
Congress and shifted it into the machines, made it a matter of
technology rather than humanity.?
On the USA PATRIOT Act:
?The USA Patriot Act is a blank check to a government
institution [the FBI] that is notorious for overstepping its
bounds, notorious for being ineffective, incompetent, and on the
verge of corrupt. It?s probably the biggest example of legislative
malpractice in the last 50 years.?
?Libraries are considered to be dangerous places and librarians
are our heroes. . . . A library is a temple to the notion that
knowledge is not just for the elite and that access should be low
cost if not free, that doors should be open. Investing in libraries
monetarily, spiritually, intellectually, legally is one of the best
things we can do for our immediate state and for the life we hope
we can build for the rest of the century.?
Vaidhyanathan?s next book, The Anarchist in the
Library, will be released in early 2004 from Basic Books.
Eyeteeth interview with Paul Schmelzer