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 weblog Eyeteeth:
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.