Culture in the Balance: Commercial or Non-Commercial

Via Julian Sanchez, a neat video mashup of different dance scenes from different Walt Disney animated films, that shows the reuse and recycling of certain motion patterns and tropes. Check it out:

I watched that video and got a few minutes of amusement from it. And so far thousands of other people seem to have done so as well. And with the video bouncing around on some blogs, that number ought to keep rising. So the world has, in a small way, been made a better place by the fact that modern digital technology makes it feasible for a hobbyist to create this even though there’s no real prospect of monetary reward.

And yet in the name of halting “piracy” there are those who would so tighten intellectual property rules as to make it impossible for these kinds of creative works to be made. That would boost the financial incentives for for-profit corporations to produce high levels of cultural content, but it would also raise substantial barriers to the creation of amateur, hobbyist, or not-for-profit content creation. That’s worth keeping in mind whenever you hear debates about intellectual property issues. Strong IP is usually branded as “good” for “creators” but the main impact of the digital revolution has been to advantage non-commercial producers relative to commercial producers, and the main impact of strong IP law is to shift the balance of power back to the commercial world. We’re accustomed to thinking of capitalism in opposition to socialism, state-direction production, but in the information realm the main opposition is between capitalism and activity that is simply non-commercial in nature.