Torrenting clichés live on for a reason

Freddie de Boer has a post up, decrying pro-torrenting ‘myths’ that need to die.

Down in the comments, he writes,

Many of you are dramatically underestimating the kind of resources that are necessary to make great artwork. Sgt Pepper could not have been made by dedicated amateurs. Even today, high-quality recording costs are far higher than people realize. Lawrence of Arabia could not be made by some kids with a GoPro and a dream. Nobody laboring alone in his bedroom could code Half-Life 2.

But Counter Strike absolutely WAS coded by a bunch of volunteers as a result of their own enthusiasm. Likewise Team Fortress.

Oh – and the Linux kernel, which drives most of the web today. And BSD Unix – the framework on which Mac OS X is built.

And pretty much all of And a majority of the stuff on And a great deal of good writing.

Lawrence of Arabia could not be made by some kids with a GoPro, but that does nothing to diminish what a couple of kids with a GoPro can do. And Sergeant Pepper – oh, this is silly and childish. Freddie, your proposition is that Great Art is not possible without significant resources being brought to bear. The real proposition is that some kinds of creative endeavour (the majority of which are decidedly not great) are not possible without significant resources.

And your warning is that diminishing revenues could result in the death of these endeavours.

But you’re falling victim to one of the most basic misapprehensions in ‘media’ today: That this is a crisis of production. It’s not; it’s a crisis of distribution. There is an entire industry whose existence is predicated on controlling distribution of creative works. That is the industry facing death. It’s those specific companies whose income is predicated on controlling access to the creative works they pay for (they’re not creators themselves) whose fate is in the balance now.

My personal feeling is that they can go take a flying leap. They never did anything for me, or for the vast majority of very talented creators whom I’ve known in my lifetime. They actively quench a great deal of expression, because scarcity is their stock in trade. And they have so subverted the state of the internet now that the vast majority of the planet does not have access to the ‘millions’ of works that you think are so readily (and legally) accessible.

And now, lest you accuse me of not having a reasonable, practical alternative, allow me to point to just one perfectly workable approach that I’ve come up with over the years.

Freddie: you’re not wrong about all of this (though you are quite wrong on some of the details; they only apply to America). You’re just having the wrong conversation. The biggest problem is that you seem guilty of the very American tendency to equate wealth with success. That’s not useful. There’s a lot more to it than that.