April 10, 2005 · Lessig
So there’s a view about the file-sharing debate held by most people who don’t know anything about the debate. It is a view the recording industry likes most people to hold. It is a view far from anything anyone interesting is saying.
The view – call it the uninformed stereotype (US) view – goes something like this: that there are just two sides to this debate, those who favor “piracy” and those who don’t. Supporters of Grokster are people who favor piracy, and who are against artists.
On Thursday, at the NYPL, I had the extraordinarily pleasure of being on stage with Jeff Tweedy and Steven Johnson, for a discussion titled “Who Owns Culture?” The evening started with 15 minutes of me and my “powerpoint” (actually, Keynote), and then a 50 minute discussion with Tweedy and me, moderated by Johnson. There was then time for questions from the audience.
It was an extraordinary evening. I had the chance before to talk to Tweedy, so I wasn’t surprised. But he was extraordinary � funny, subtle, smart about the issues, and deeply passionate. Suffice it that neither he nor I (as is obvious to anyone on this page) subscribe to, or fit, within the US view. I explicitly denounced “piracy”; Tweedy — in context — said nothing to support the view that people should infringe the rights of other artists.
David Carr of the New York Times was at the event. He wrote a review. Everyone I’ve spoken to loved the piece. I think they loved it because it was a piece printed in the Times, and we’re a culture that loves attention more than accuracy.
The review says nothing inaccurate about me, or the views I expressed. But, imho, it is filled with quotes from Tweedy, taken out of context, to support the US view. Nothing in the article suggests anything was said at all contrary to the US view. One reading the piece would think, there they go again, those supporters of theft, and haters of artists.
I’m not sure why there needs to be a NYTimes, if its role is simply to reinforce what people already think, especially with pieces like this. God forbid the Nation’s paper of record should reflect something more subtle or complex than the crudest view of an important debate.