A couple days ago, people who follow certain events all woke up to headlines about a DMCA takedown that GitHub received for hosting copies of Youtube-DL, a command-line script that lets you download videos off Youtube. (The DMCA, or Digital Millenium Copyright Act, is a U.S. law that says folk can’t host material that infringes on copyright or is primarily for infringing copyright.)
The notice came from the RIAA, Recording Industry Association of America, because they feel that by hosting Youtube-DL, Github is hosting material that is primarily for infringing on copryight.
There are a lot of good arguments about why that claim is bullshit, even assuming the legitimacy of “intellectual property,” made by people with state-granted privilege to issue opinions. So, I’m not going to talk about that.
Instead, I’m going to repeat a point I’ve made often to people elsewhere, but not yet through this newsletter:
Those who operate computers for commercial organizations in exchange for funding (“developers,” in a word) fill a role similar to religious officials in our society, going far beyond the concrete actions of their role: due to computer operations being incorporated into nearly all forms of labor, this developer class has authority over nearly all facets of human life, at a very individualized level.
This social position lets “developers” have a massively disproportionate effect on our popular culture: their values are mimicked throughout the world, in big and small ways.
It’s those developers I’m talking to.
What in the fuck are y’all doing? Look at my newsletter from yesterday. Your society is on a genocidal rampage right now. Let’s take a breath together, and consider: is the RIAA sending Microsoft a letter really that important?
(Spoiler: my answer is actually, “yes, kind of.”)
So, from my perspective, the RIAA and Microsoft are both basically denominations of the same death cult, and what they’ve done is they’ve exchanged a magic letter that adds to the Litany of the latter denomination, giving it just cause to excommunicate certain members and burn their contributions to the community.
Put another way: the Church in Spain has some nascent anarchists in some rural parishes, so the Pope signs a letter clarifying that “yes, that’s not good,” and so now those rural parishes stop letting in the anarchists, and burn down the anarchist’s patch of tomatoes growing next to the cemetary.
Put that way, to me, this seems really important. Whether it’s viewed as economic, political, or spiritual, it is destruction with the intent to repress. And I honestly can’t think of many things more harmful to our ability to survive than repressing our ability to create new solutions to problems we encounter.
But, put this way, it begs the question: are there other ways we’re repressing our ability to create that are more urgently harmful?
A photograph of some field peas growing out of milk crates, also some lemon balm and a few varieties of succulent.
The majority of our food comes from, or is fed by food that comes from, proprietary seed: vast libraries of magic scrolls chain together to bind your wrists against replanting the seed you buy routinely at the grocery store: bean, corn, tomato, squash, pepper. You probably have at least one seed of one of those somewhere in your kitchen. You might have hundreds, or thousands.
And if you were to plant them, and the Church find out, you would be asked to pay your Indulgences, and the plants you grew would be destroyed.
It doesn’t stop at the illegal gardening (or piracy), though. Most of y’all probably stream your TV and movies and music, but was that a choice you made or a consequence of the abundances and scarcities within you culture? Most of y’all probably don’t save seed: is that a choice you made or a consequence of culture?
What I’m trying to say is, even ignoring the direct repression, we have had our ability to create repressed for so long that most of us don’t even feel the ability. The “real world” that most people live in is one that’s interacted with via magic scrolls like laws and currency, not one of life, air, and water.
…Which is probably why people love to get interested in dramas like the RIAA/Github thing: if they live entirely within the constructs of kyriarchal society, of /course/ the machinations of kyriarchal society are the most interesting thing in the world.
And it is interesting. I agree. But… as an analogy for the massive harms we’ve already let happen to us, when we let our ability to create in the material world get repressed. It is such a valuable story, in that way.
But, on its own, the only repression at hand is our ability to create within kyriarchal society, and if the threat of that repression greatly threatens you: again, breathe. And recognize you’re saying you need the kyriarchy to be creative, and start exploring how you can change that.