deus ex macchiato

Fabian Bazant-Hegemark's blog

Antipiracy belittles culture

While there are many things subject to my fret in the country of my origin, a thing that I always admired was the legal status of what basically all other countries call media piracy.

Basically, Austria never had such a law, since an ancient deal with record companies instead reimbursed them for the potential loss of sales by adding a fee to blank tapes and CDs, which was then distributed according to a voodooesque allocation formula. Now, I don't say that this system is perfect, mainly because the allocation formula is bullshit and the bigger amount of these meta-royalties ends up in manager's offshores rather than artist's fridges, but it had a side effect that for me described one of the biggest features of consumption of culture in Austria. You could not be pestered or sued for downloading so called "illegal" material online. Even torrenting is legal, as long as you do the dick thing and deactivate your upload.

Well, or used to be. In the depths of a new law concerning this "blank-tape-fee" which is meant to ("finally") add the same tax to hard disk drives and SSDs—which I personally think questionable, but don't mind too much—a certain phrase is hidden, which explicitly ends what is now called a "former gray area" by self righteous empty suits.

Basically, this means that what is commonly referred to as media piracy will now also be criminalized in Austria. And here's why I think this is a shame:

I don't want to go into the details of why it is necessary to pay for consumption of art, first because I don't think that's the way it should be, and second because I totally get that people want money for what they create. I actually would think it weird if this weren't the case.

But: the free and public access to art, movies, books, and thereby ideas, cultures, minds and people is one of the most important goods for a country as ridiculous as Austria.

I already argued a couple of months ago that I think that what useless lawyers want you to call media piracy is not only not a crime, but the inevitable successor of libraries—my personal cultural education would be basically non existent, being fed only by four radio stations and two TV channels, were it not for the constant stream of information that I was allowed and able to receive through all the years when I did not have the money to go to cinemas, to buy several books a month—especially those that had just been released, maybe even on another continent, and would take months to be translated half-heartedly and then bought by some library eventually, all those constraints that digital media overcome gracefully. It wasn't that I would have paid any amount of money, as little as it might have been, and that me downloading or watching online stole money from some obscure production scheme: the alternative, for me, would have been to not be able to educate myself. To not learn English as I did. To not know about the ideas that move people in other countries, not thirty years ago, but today, right now. For all those who actually would participate in the experience of culture, but lacked the funds, media piracy is the gateway to education and to exchange, to growth and exposure to new ideas.

In Austria, this will end October 1st, 2015.

It is a shame that what should be a right in every nation and for all people will now be criminalized in one more.

That all is to say: fuck every single one of you lobbyist shitbags. You are a disgrace and you should feel ashamed.