Notes from Cory Doctorow talk in Oslo

Cory was here to launch the (New) Norwegian version of his book Little Brother, but, of course, this meeting is not as much about the book as about issues of intellectual property, DRM, legislation thereof, as well as the future of information industries such as publishing.

Cory started with “his usual talk” – interesting, as always – about how encryption works, how it is really strong but easily broken from the outside since the key must be distributed, and then on about how the publishing industry is locking up the work of artists in complicated and, given the technology evolution, largely self-defeating.

Cory structures this around three claims by the industry – that DRM works, that extensions of copyright is necessary to preserve artist’s income, and that the industry should have extra-judiciary powers to shut people out from the Internet upon accusation of copyright infringements. The last one is rather interesting, given all the things people do on the Internet today.

The issue is that we are all copyright infringers, because the rules are arcane and really geared towards the relationship between industry and professional artists, with lawyers and everything. That means that we are all vulnerable to capricious accusations, especially given today’s search technology.

(Not really a point in writing this down in detail, I guess, it will be all over Youtube and other places anyway.)

The debate featured Bjarne Buset, Bente Kalsnes, Eirik Newth and Cory. Bjarne Buset, head of digital strategy at Gyldendal (a large publisher) had the hardest task, since he argues in favor of DRM. Bente Kalsnes from, an online community, pointed out that the publishing industry has been very slow in developing alternative business models. Eirik Newth talked about how we need to sit down and do a typical Scandinavian solution, stepping off the rhetoric and focusing on privacy, users’ rights, and creators’ right.

I tried to make the point that this debate is getting too politicized. The market will fix this, it is called a disruptive innovation, and there will be a lot of noise and then some of the players will make it across and others won’t. secondly, the the debate is being polluted by a lot of idiots who say that stealing is OK, because music should be cheaper or Microsoft is evil. Like some of my (business school!) students, who copy Microsoft Office and justifies it by saying that Microsoft makes so much money and the product is too expensive.

Anyway, I had an interesting discussion afterwards with some of the usual suspects as well as Bjarne Buset. At some point him and I need to enter into a highly publicized bet as to the future of the publishing industry. In the meantime, it is rather depressing to watch the publishing industry go down the oh-so-noble road to self-destruction, just like the record industry.

Update Sept. 17: Forteller has a good post and a recording of the debate (86Mb mp3).

Update Sept. 20: Here is a (rather fuzzy) video of Cory’s talk, as usual he speaks (seemingly) ex tempore:

Doctorow @ Litteraturhuset from Veslebror Serdeg on Vimeo.


3 thoughts on “Notes from Cory Doctorow talk in Oslo

  1. Anonymous

    Espen, remember that IP laws are based on a social contract between society and the creators, and that supply and demand decide the market price restricted by this social contract.
    If the copyright organizations extend the social contract for the benefit of themselves all the time (outside democratic processes), is it possible to argue that the market solution is fair?

  2. Espen

    Well, the copyright associations (or, rather, the rights holders) do not do this outside democratic processes, but rather outside democratic attention. Secondly, you have to define “fair” – from a market perspective, the market price is fair….

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you for answering, not bad! I am confident that I have a pretty good case, but it is good with a litmus test now and then anyway 🙂

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