Although SOPA and PIPA were defeated for now, the corporate-government attack on file sharing continues unabated. Most significantly was the government shutdown of Megaupload a couple of weeks ago. Regardless of an overarching bill ending filesharing, the media companies are using their full power to end the practice.
One can make a copyright argument that if you really want a Metallica album, you should buy it. I get that. But the ending of the entire practice has very real consequences. Take for instance, the now deleted site Holy Warbles. In response to the Megaupload ban, Blogspot has deleted many of the blogs that shared files. Holy Warbles was one of these. Holy Warbles was a great site that I sometimes used. It did not traffic in the new Chris Brown. Instead, it found obscure vinyl, largely from foreign artists that would never, ever be released on CD or digitally and made it available to people.
Most notably, Owl Qaeda’s Holy Warbles, which first had its Megaupload content stolen by the FBI action. As if that weren’t enough, no doubt freaking out over the Megaupload action, Blogger simply shut his blog down, claiming multiple instances of copyright infringement. Of–we should be clear–expressive cultural artifacts that were either long out of print (and never to be reprinted) or so obscure as to be readily unavailable to anyone whose head is not a giant interactive encyclopedia.
The last thing I downloaded from HW was a rare, completely out of print album by Marie Jubran, a Syrian artist who recorded mostly during the 50s I think and who doesn’t even have so much as an English-language Wikipedia page. I have a lot of Arabic music from the period and a couple of related books, and I’d never even heard of her before visiting Holy Warbles. That is the sort of thing we’re talking about. Gone now. Not just the music, mind you, which is lovely. But an artifact that is now once again unavailable for, say, anyone studying the region and period.
Holy Warbles, and blogs like it, are–for all intents and purposes–libraries. That, really, is their function. Libraries that store things that not even the NYPL or Queens Borough Public Library have. (I should know; I’ve ransacked both for their CD and other media collections, which I–yes, you guessed it–immediately download to my computer. Will the FBI be visiting our libraries next?)
Indeed. Should the government confiscate actual libraries CD collections? After all, I could check out a CD and burn it to my computer. Isn’t that also taking money out of the pockets of corporate shareholders?