Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Split Personality

The Los Angeles Times can't figure out how it feels about file-sharing apparently. In an article today on piracy campaigns that target Christian teens on behalf of the Christian music industry, "Pirating Songs of Praise," the Times refers to both "stealing and swapping" music in one section, and how these young people "take and share songs" in another. Are they stealing or swapping? Are they taking or sharing? The Times doesn't seem to know for sure.

The article does give some credence to the argument that file-sharing builds the name recognition of artists and ultimately boosts sales, but it doesn't take seriously questions about how intellectual property itself can be reified in our current "Culture of the Copy", even though its own language shows considerable ambivalence about the the concept.

The Times story also didn't get into some of the trickier issues that it could have pursued when it raised the contradiction of "Spread the Word" and "Thou Shalt Not Steal." By inserting discourses about theft, they've missed the real opposition at work. Generally, religions must evangelize to survive and must disseminate their messages widely and freely, but many faiths also depend on hierachical systems based on secret knowledge. Thus the Scientologists don't want their holiest scriptures on the Internet, and the Vatican has begun copyrighting the official speeches and writings of the Pope.



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