Northeast Monsoon

Many people believe monsoons synonymous with typhoons, which they are not. Typhoons are synonymous with hurricanes; in fact a typhoon is an hurricane by any other name, either of which bring chaos and destruction with their howling winds tearing up pavements and creating monster waves. Monsoons are not like that. Monsoons are prevailing, often gentle, winds that bring seasonal changes to germinate and water and subsequently to dry and ripen our crops.

I mentioned that the wind change last October marking the onset of the Northeast Monsoon and the beginning of the rainy season that not only helped seeds to propagate, it also washed the ground from beneath the feet of dictators and potentates and brought about the Arab Spring. It’s still blowing, and gathering momentum, as dictatorship after dictatorship falls in its relentless path and so, too, are corrupt democracies. On the eighteenth of January, in the great land of lobbyists and corporate greed, 13 million folks rose up to say no to those who would tie the hands of the Internet Service Providers. SOPA, and its cohort PIPA, were nipped in the bud as anxious senators backed away from an issue that could cost them votes.

Let’s talk a bit about file sharing which, as anyone who frequented secondhand bookstores understands, has always been with us. It’s instinctive: in my family we could be found swapping Christmas book gifts right through to March as we all caught up on our reading, and I am as likely as any to leave my newspaper on the coffee shop table for others to read. DVDs and library books, too, were usually swapped around before being returned, so why all this fuss about sharing now? Money is what it’s all about: not copyright; not protection for the artists and authors; money, and out and out greed.

Agents, printers, publishers, and retailers all earn a slice of the revenue from sales of books and DVDs that is more or less in line with the effort involved. The distributors though, have always had a disproportionate slice of the pie because they have fixed up deals with, or are financially linked to, the publishers and retailers. In the literary world 40% of the retail of a book went to folks who acted as wholesaler and distributor: 40% for warehousing and trucking. In the world of movies the distributors are similarly linked to the cinemas, the retailers, and the production organizations, so it was on their protection that the proposed legislation was focussed, and it was their money that funded the lobbyists. The fact is that it is not copyright per se that is being broken by the pirate distributors, but the distribution monopolies, and about time too.

What about the millions of dollars being siphoned off in revenue from advertising on distribution facilitators’ sites? Well servers, routers, hubs and maintenance crews all have to be paid for but, judging by the quality of the advertisements to be found at The Pirate Bay and Btjunkie, not a lot of money is coming in. So that can probably be relegated to being just a point to argue, rather than a matter of fact. The important fact is that big business wants control of the biggest market ever seen, and who can blame them? Because of the monster advertising enabled by international mass media a few sports heroes can enjoys monster salaries and, by the same token, Hollywood can reach out to its audience to ensure that the capital expenditure on any given movie can recouped in the first weekend of its release regardless of quality, and therein lies the iniquity.

If we are ever break the vicious circle of marketing ever lower quality material to the ever lower education sections of the market, or dumbing down for the dumb, we have to have a way to bring thoughtful work to the thoughtful. The Internet does that. The great Indie world of Utube, Smashwords, WordPress… , does that, and will continue to do that as long as they are free. They have to be free as the wind to publish whatever they wish and distribute to whoever they wish because you can be sure that once big business, and by that I mean governments et al, put their greedy fingers upon it prejudice, bias, and discrimination will all come bounding through our computers.

So let’s stay with this wind of change. Let us continue to reject censoring: by any other name an ill wind.

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