Cory Doctorow, whose CV defies a one-sentence summary, has collected his essays and articles in a new book called Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future. Like all of Doctorow’s books, this is available free of charge under a Creative Commons licence. Click here for a direct link to the PDF version of the book.
Doctorow makes his books available for download because he believes in reaching the widest audience possible, and in practising what he preaches, which is that making downloads available for free, far from cannibalising physical sales of his books, actually increases them.
There has always been an argument that the filesharing revolution, far from damaging sales of music, simply allowed more people to be exposed to new music they might otherwise never have heard. It’s hard to say. I know that there are some parts of the world where people see computers as the means to the end of free downloads. I know people who wouldn’t use a computer if they weren’t able to download bootlegged copyright material. On the other hand, for media corporations to treat their customers (and we’re all their customers) like criminals, drag them through the courts, and attempt to cripple products in a futile attempt to foil copyright theft, is counterproductive to say the least.
The latest DRM controversy concerns the game Spore, which only allows people who buy it to install it three times. I’ve encountered this kind of copy protection in the past with music software, and it can be a complete pain in the backside, particularly for those who upgrade to the latest technology on a regular basis. There was a stage when I was changing my Mac every 18 months or so, and I remember having all kinds of difficulties the last time I installed Sampletank. Furthermore, copy-protected software sometimes identifies your (old) computer as “new hardware” if you simply add something to it, like a new graphics card or a wireless networking card.
Anyway, Spore is getting a lot of negative customer reviews on Amazon (1490 one-star reviews the last time I looked), which is a great example of the consumer fighting back. Of course, the fightback would be a lot more effective if people just didn’t buy the game.
Meanwhile, I do recommend you take a look at the Cory Doctorow book. He writes loads of articles about copyright issues, new media, and so on that are very pertinent for media students. You could even buy a physical copy to donate to your school library…