I want to get our tongues out of our cheeks when we talk about piracy. Librarians should not be scared of or threatened by piracy. We have no professional obligation to identify with or protect the establishment, the record labels, publishing houses, or software firms who think pirates are eating their profit margins.
I’m not worried about how piracy threatens business models. I’m worried that we are moving from a system where corporations exploit writers and musicians and artists, to a system where we all exploit ourselves and each other, which doesn’t actually change the system or redistribute power. Rushkoff makes the point that when we insist on consuming content for free, when we ignore the value of the time and energy spent on the things we read and watch, we create a system where ads fund everything, playing right into highest hopes of the most powerful companies. “By encouraging us to devalue and deprofessionalize our work, these companies guarantee a mediaspace where only they get paid.”
I want libraries to represent a genuine alternative, a way to access content that nudges us toward a new social contract, a more sophisticated understanding around the use and exchange of digital content. What if the DPLA, for example, invited musicians & others to upload their content in a way that linked it with a way to pay the artists directly, preferably using an alternative e-currency that can be biased toward the people creating the actual value. What if libraries provided a network with no access restrictions, but lots of cues about social and cultural value, and how to be good to one another. We’ve lived our entire lived in such a locked-down, highly controlled media environment that we’re uncritically enjoying this newfound freedom and openness. I’m not suggesting we do anything to chill the beautiful anarchy of exchange, but couldn’t we invite a little more conscientiousness? I could imagine a band posting a 30 second video on their DPLA download page saying We’re an independent group, we have to pay ourselves and pay the good people who help us, we all work hard and we think this album is worth X, but PWYW to download it, including nothing.
Apple and Google and Verizon own us if we can’t agree to value each other’s labor. Let’s own ourselves. (Dear libraries, we could use some help becoming an autonomous, commons-based society.)