By Ruth Vitale
Whether or not Santa Claus is part of your winter holiday tradition, you are almost certainly aware of his infamous “list.” You know, the thing that he “checks twice” and through some calculus known only to him, determines who on it has been “naughty or nice.”
This year, I have some unfortunate news to impart – a lot of seemingly decent people are not going to make the cut. They might be doing everything in their power to be good Samaritans – helping old ladies across the street, holding doors open for people, the whole works – and it doesn’t matter. They’re still stuck smack dab in the middle of Santa’s “Naughty” list, and they ain’t going nowhere.
Why? Because they’re not respecting copyright.
Copyright is a vital cultural component that touches all our lives. For the 5.5 million Americans who work in creative industries, it’s everything. It’s the engine that ensures they get paid fairly for the work they create, which in turn affects everyone else – because without copyright, creatives would have far less incentive to weave the stories that we all watch, read, listen to, play, and so on.
Do you love to be moved and exhilarated by our country’s incredibly rich tapestry of entertaining content? Then you also love copyright, because that tapestry wouldn’t exist without it. It’s as simple as that.
The good news is, if you are one of the many who have been disrespecting copyright, Santa might give you a pass – this once. Maybe you downloaded some pirated movies this year and didn’t realize that those productions cost time and money – and provided jobs for hundreds, if not thousands of people. Or maybe you indulged in some illegal streaming on one of many “fully-loaded Kodi boxes,” which can look so similar to legal streaming boxes that it can be hard to tell the difference. Or maybe you just forgot to hug your artist friend and say, “Hey, thanks for working hard to make this cruel world just a little more tolerable.”
All of these things are forgivable, and teachable, which is why Santa might still put you on the Nice list, if he’s certain that you just didn’t know any better and that deep down, you really are a good person.
It’s also why a certain other group of people will most decidedly not be getting on to this year’s Nice list – because they did know better. They knew how essential copyright is and yet they did, and have done, everything in their power to pick apart copyright protections anyway.
They are the Big Tech industry, and this year, they are getting lumps of coal in their stocking the size of Facebook’s scandal sheet, and just as dirty.
Long before the American public went (justifiably) nuts over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, filmmakers, songwriters, and other creatives had been fighting tooth and nail with Big Tech over illegal uploads and search results leading to pirate sites and the sale of piracy devices and apps that collectively pilfer billions of dollars a year. In fact, armed with sweeping legal immunity granted only to them, internet companies have cheerfully evaded accountability for pretty much all the content that appears on their platforms, ducking repercussions for not just piracy, but fake news, cyberbullying, sex trafficking, and targeted misinformation campaigns that have directly incited real-world violence.
But it being the holidays and all, I will refrain from completely bumming you out – change is in the air! Unless you’ve been holing up in the North Pole with Santa, you will have noticed that the world has been inundated with studies and exposés revealing more and more of Big Tech’s shortcomings, prompting further investigation and Congressional hearings. Yes indeed, the days of internet exceptionalism may finally be coming to an end. Big issues like privacy, security, and election interference are now getting big attention from the government – I just hope that piracy and other copyright abuses aren’t lost in the shuffle.
That’s why, in October, prior to the midterm elections, CreativeFuture sent a letter to congressional candidates asking for their support of the creative industries.
“The U.S. core copyright industries are a significant economic driver, contributing more than $1.2 trillion to America’s Gross Domestic Product,” we wrote. “Our industries are leading exporters, outselling other major U.S. industries – including aerospace, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals. When consumers in other countries enjoy American-made creative products legally, job creation and economic growth occur here.”
More than 101,000 creatives, audience members, fans, and consumers signed this letter, in a massive show of unified support for a robust copyright system
“Strong and effective copyright is not a partisan issue,” we continued, “but rather one that benefits our entire country. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative or libertarian, our nation’s creators and our creative economy deserve your support.”
The election is over, but the journey toward greater platform accountability has only just begun. The creative communities must keep the pressure on our leaders and Members of Congress, both old and new and make sure that companies like Google and Facebook change their practices for the better.
So, why not celebrate the season by standing up for copyright? Whether you’re partial to Santa Claus or not, it’s an awfully nice thing to do.