H.

This afternoon, you can watch me on TechTV’s The Screen Savers. Then tonight, I head into the DNA Lounge in San Francisco to defend your right to free speech and parody on the Internet as I go toe to toe with Barney in a celebrity boxing match brought to you by the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Chilling Effects project.
If you’re in or near San Francisco, and your value your rapidly diminishing rights of free speech and free expression, I encourage you to come and check it out.
However, if you can’t be there, for whatever reason, here is a copy of the speech I’m giving tonight.

“Copyright law is a good idea. It allows actors, writers, and musicians to create and own intellectual property, and hopefully derive a living from their creations.
As an actor and writer, I have a personal stake in making sure that Copyright law is enforced. If I can’t own the works I create, then I can’t feed my family.
The music labels, publishing houses and studios who release our creative works would have you believe that unless we strengthen copyright laws, their clever euphemism for eroding your rights to parody and free expression, all artists will suffer.
Don’t you believe them. As a negotiator for the Screen Actors Guild, I have firsthand experience with these men who claim to care so greatly for artists, and I call shenanigans. The greatest danger to musicians is not Gnutella. It is the label. The greatest danger to actors and film makers is not DeCSS. It is the studio. These corporate masters care little for the artists who are filling their 4 car garages with new Porsches and filling their private jets with fuel and “hostesses.”
What they do care about is controlling how you listen to music, or watch movies, and, increasingly, how you discuss and react to our creations.
Copyright law was best described as “a balance between expression that the owners can control and expression that is left open to the commons.”
Right now we are facing the complete destruction of that delicate balance. Corporations, and their congressional lap dogs, are doing everything in their power to ensure that the “expression left open to the commons” is forever removed, leaving only “expression the owners can control.”
That is a truly terrifying statement, which bears repeating: “expression only the owners can control.”
Do you want your freedom of expression controlled by a studio, record label, or multi-national corporation? Do you want Sony’s goons kicking in your door because you dare call Shakira SUCKira? Do you want Paramount to have the right to tell you that you can’t write that Star Trek fan fiction you’ve been working on while your wife is asleep? You know, the one where you’re the captain and Counselor Troi is giving you a “special session?” Do you want Best Buy telling you that you’re a criminal for expressing, on your website, your opinion that, “Best Buy sucks?”
Of course we don’t. We all value our freedoms of expression and our rights to satire and parody. Can you imagine a world without “The Onion,” or “Satirewire?” Area Men everywhere would be slienced. I don’t want to live in that world.
Corporations know that they’re wrong. They rightfully fear the Internet, and those of us who know how to use it. They don’t like it when we step outside of the narrowly defined, consumer culture they’ve created for us.
They have seen “expression left open to the commons” running counter to “expression that the owners can control,” and rather than respect our rights, they are working feverishly to destroy that all-too-delicate balance.
Corporations regularly abuse copyright law to silence dissent. Best Buy, Wal*Mart and Starbucks have all sent Cease and Desist letters to angry consumers who feel that they’ve been ripped off, and, like me, taken their case to the public via the Internet.
So they are shoving money at congress, and sending lawyers after us.
Our fundamental rights are under attack by a terrified cabal of corporate monsters, who have bought and paid for the DMCA and CARP, and I say that the erosion of our rights stops right here, right now.
I will continue to parody public figures and cherished icons.
I will state, on my website, in 100 point flashing red type on a blue background: “Barney sucks! Best Buy sucks! Sony Sucks! Microsoft sucks, Bill Gates is the anti-Christ and John Ashcroft can kiss my ass!”
I will promote artist’s rights. I will educate, enlighten, and empower. I will write, call, FAX and email congress.
Copyright Law is not a tool of repression granted to an unaccountable corporation by a corrupt congress at the expense of an ignorant public.
It exists to protect and promote artists. Don’t ever forget that.
Tonight, we are ignorant no longer, and as ignorance goes, so goes complacency. The EFF has created an online library where you can research your rights, at chillingeffects.org. Get online, get educated and get involved.
Individually, we can get angry. Together, we can, and will, make a difference.”

152 thoughts on “H.”

  1. Nice speech! This is an issue that I feel very strongly about and I would have loved to have been there myself.
    Kick Barneys ass a little bit for me okay? ;)

  2. ‘I will state, on my website, in 100 point flashing red type on a blue background: “Barney sucks! Best Buy sucks! Sony Sucks! Microsoft sucks, Bill Gates is the anti-Christ and John Ashcroft can kiss my ass!”’
    If I do this on my own site, would I be sued for copyright violation? That’d be cool.
    —Michael

  3. Well said.
    When I download something from a gnutella I do it just for a preview. Many things don’t come where I am and whether they come, there are always expensive. But when I like something i previewed it I go and buy it, for respect to the owner (the artist or the one who made the program/game), but such laws (In my country they are thinking on baning computer games just because slot machines were rigged to draw capitals from the addicted poor people – made poor by the same government-) are made just for those who own the reign of government.
    I’d say SHOOT THE DOG!
    Panagiotis
    Greece

  4. Excellent speech and a great way to spread awareness! I have a question: I play in a cover band where we perform songs by artists other than ourselves and get paid for it. Is that copyright infringement? How does playing in a cover band fit into the scheme of things?

  5. San Francisco, no, but I will be watching Wil (you) tonight on TechTV; VCR ready. Freedom of Speech…

  6. While I agree with what you’re saying in principle, I think the breadth of your argument is too expansive for me to get behind. You’ve got three types of copyright infringement running simultaneously — the copying of a creator’s music/written works; the criticism of a legal entity (personal or corporate); and satire/parody of an entity or character — and you’re treating them as equal.
    For argument’s sake, say I produce written works (fiction and essays), own a business (my translation company) and co-own a cartoon character (Man-Man). Now, say I wake up one morning and find (a) people photocopying my book to give away, possibly uncredited to me, (b) somebody starting a website called Matt-Shepherd-Translations-Sucks.com, and (c) producing a parody of Man-Man pointing out the inherent flaws in the character concept.
    My reactions would be to (a) stop the people copying my stuff, by whatever means possible, since it’s my livelihood, sweat and blood; (b) address valid complaints and take legal action to stop libel, if necessary, and (c) laugh if the parody is funny, shrug if it isn’t.
    You can leave it at that, or extrapolate me into a hundred-employee Matt Shepherd Corporation, but the basic principle should remain the same — they’re different animals.
    Even there, I’m roaming into grey areas, but you see what I’m getting at. I’m no Big Fan of Big Business or Big Brother, but I can’t equate intellectual theft, consumer criticism, and fair comment just to make that point.

  7. Wil, what’s up with the 15 year old Wesley Crusher glamour picture in Screen Savers?
    Is this internet parody?
    Did you provide them with this picture?
    Is it a Parmount copyright infringement?
    Free Willy! – (Can I be sued for this?)

  8. Good points, Matt.
    What I’m hoping to get across is how Big Business takes those 3 things you’re talking about, and abuses the copyright law to shut down websites and silence dissent.
    Of course copyright holders have a right to profit from their creations, and of course people should defend themselves from libel.
    But I am not equating those three things with each other,and I disagree with what I understand to be a 1:1 comparison between individual artists and large corporations.
    My main point is that corporations are not respecting copyright law as it is intended, and they are trying to convince you that they are doing otherwise.
    You’ll get the last word on this, if you desire, because I have to leave for the airport now.

  9. Okay…am I losing it or did the post title change?
    Did you get strong armed for the title or what?

  10. D’oh!
    Brevity sucks. I think given your time limits (you’re doing a speech, not a dissertation) and mine (I’m at work and furtively looking over my shoulder) we’re trying to fit some pretty giant problems in a very small box.
    Re-reading your original article, my response, and your response, I think that the real threat is the ability of large corporate entities to lump the categories together, not us. Any successful libel/infringement suit opens the door to success in less warranted libel/infringement suits, and so on.
    I’m enjoying the Chilling Effects web site, BTW. And I am 100% behind your intentions, if not behind your phraseology…

  11. Good speech.. Wish I could get down there to see you beat the crap out of the purple dinasour :-) But its on the other side of the country :)

  12. Wil,
    Two words
    Well Said
    Have a good flight to and from, and whip up on barney for me. Be safe and take care, oh and thanks for what you are doing.
    Until your next post……
    Matt……

  13. Wil (if I may assume so much to address you by your familiar name),
    I’ve been following your site for a couple weeks now and trying to figure out if you’re true libertarian, or hollywierd’s version of one (i.e. Greens are worse than Democrats).
    As for copyright laws, I believe it is a sticky question when dealing with Napster and Gnutella type technologies. While some artists may welcome to added, free exposure, others definitely have the right to protect their work if they so choose. Where do you draw that delicate balance?
    I hate the recording industry not so much because of what they do (although it’s deplorable, I’d rather give $5-$10 directly to an artist than pay $20 and have the artist get $0.50), but the manner in which they pass themselves off. They say they are capitalists. Bullpucky! Capitalists do not try and use the force of government to expand and keep their little empires at the expense of others.
    Until then…I will be watching you with keen interest.
    Regards,
    Starfox

  14. As a photographer I have to tell you that copyright law is a hot button issue.
    I can see Wil’s point of view and I can see Matt’s point of view. My take on it has always been simplistic in nature but works for me. I do not tolorate copying of my work in any way! I took created the art (be it nature, sport, portrait, event, etc.) and I should get paid for it not someone who copied it.
    Now we get into the world of parody and imitation, that is trickier. For photographers that happens more often than we would like. Think of some of the great landmarks and scenic views in the world and how many times they have been photographed. Duplication is going to happen. Now this may not happen as often in music, writting, sculpting, etc. but it does happen to some degree. I think when it comes to that area imitation is the best form of flattery. Again, before people start to tell me how naive that is remember I said this was more of a simple approach. I also think that parody is a form of flattery and can create a greater interest in me and my work. However, if the imitation or parady causes harm by slander or liable then I must take action to protect my reputation, but even in this I look at the amount of damage or harm. Someone calling me names on the internet more than likely would not be cause enough for me to take action. However, each case must be evaluated on its own. Of course if the parady is funny, I may contribute to it myself.
    Overall I think that each case should be judged on its own merits. I think the law should be as broad as possible without jeapordizing the rights of the artist.
    Good luck Wil and please knock that annoying purple thing in the nose for me.
    Patrick

  15. Congratulations on a eloquent speech and a fine analysis. “Expression left open to the commons” vs. “expression the owners can control.” Clean cut at the right point.
    Please, bring back Barney’s tail, hang it on your chimney and upload a photo of you and your trophy.

  16. Copyright is way-the-fuck out of hand.
    Speaking as the holder of some copyrights that make me money, I feel there is NO reason why copyright has to last for 70 years after my fricking death! Let my grandchildren write their own crap and sell it. Geez. In fact, I see no reason why my copyrights have to be maintained AT ALL after my death.
    Copyright is intended to promote the advance of art by extending, for a limited time, the exclusive right to a created work to the creator. It’s not intended to block everyone’s use of something for all time.
    Um. OOps.
    Rantage.
    Sorry.
    Carry on…

  17. instead of protecting creativity…these proposals would strangle creativity…leaving control of the arts in the hands of the corporate digitheads who know nothing of art except that it can make them alot of money…one may think that he had written a funny story, song or poem…but instead would be recieving a threatening letter from a lawyer…nows the time to fight back while the public is aware of what some of these vermin have done

  18. If you want to see Wil’s speech live or see them set up for the show go to:
    http://www.dnalounge.com/cam/
    Apparently they have a live cam at the place.
    I hope they don’t forget to look up at your audience from the paper.
    I’m gonna try to make it, but I’m such a geek that I’ll just blend into the woodwork anyway. hehehe

  19. Wil,
    I was reading this and saying “Oh my god, this is exactly how I feel.” Then I got to thinking, if there was a god I would want it to be either me or you. :P

  20. Wow! A Wil Wheaton post that I actually agree with. Well, the moon is full right now and stranger things have happened.

  21. Screw you Wheaton, you quiche hugging, liberal eating, tree poser.
    I will side with the iconic John Ashcroft, that cherished parody of a public figure.

  22. Hi people.
    Thanks, Wil for the eloquence.
    One of the interesting things that large corporations ignore is the licencing issue of works issued on vinyl and cassette, pre-digital. About 8,000 miles from where I currently live, I have a modest collection of LPs and cassette tapes. These, of course, were bought mainly in the seventies and eighties. I have one very crummy bootleg in that collection which I shouldn’t have bought because I knew it was going to be inferior. As a matter of fact, everyone I knew said that bootlegs were inferior. I bought it anyway, much to my regret, I listened to it a couple of times and put it away. Lesson learned: buy professional produced and packaged products.
    My collection contains an almost complete catalogue of Beatles stuff, Canadian stuff, hard to find crapola, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Bram Tchaikovsky, and even a copy of Nicol Williamson performing The Hobbit (on 4 discs).
    Man, I miss that music and stuff. But, hey, I paid my licence fees! Why should I not be able to download a digital copy? I plugged in a couple of terms into GOOGLE and there it is… Nicol Williamson reading (and performing) the Hobbit, archived as MP3 files. I feel no remorse in clicking on it and getting a new digital copy. And I feel no remorse whatsoever in getting KAZAA going and downloading a copy of A Hard Day’s Night to my hard drive.
    What copyright is all about is the author’s right to make money on SELLING his work. The Beatles (through their proxy, Capitol Records of Canada) made their money off me when I bought their album. I feel no remorse when I refresh my copy with a digital.
    What I find reprehensible are the people who would *sell* duplicates of their copy of a legally purchased item.
    Here in Chile, a lot of assholes do just that. Software, books, comics, music, movies, you name it, for sale in the streets EVERYWHERE.
    Also, as an aside, I purchased a bunch of videotapes the last time I was in Canada, Blazing Saddles, Blade Runner (director’s cut), Star Trek movies, and brought them to Chile. I was robbed of those items here in Chile. *I* paid my licence fee. I feel entitled to have a copy of what I paid for. Am I wrong to download a digital copy to my hard drive? I don’t think so.
    Just my 10 pesos’ worth.

  23. Two of my favorites in one place:
    Wil Wheaton and Tech TV, what more can I ask for in a day?
    Excellent speech, at first I was thinking you were against morpheas etc, but then I realized what you meant. Very interesting……

  24. Hey Will,
    Any specific reason in you naming your last two posts (46 & 2, H) after Tool songs?

  25. Two things:
    #1:
    Confiscated
    by Johnvril Tchoevigne
    Spread out what you waitin for?
    Relax it’s all been found before
    And if you could only cough for me
    I will see
    The kilo of cocaine up your butt
    But you’re clenching so it’s stuck
    So I’m using my tools in your bum
    It’ll come undone
    Lie through your teeth try convincing me
    You’re glad to be back
    You’re tanned and relaxed
    You sweat but it’s cool
    You look like a mule to me
    Tell me
    Where’d you go and get these drugs that I confiscated?
    I see the way you’re actin like you’re not gonna talk
    Getting me frustrated
    It’s like this you
    You talk and you deal and you turn and you put on a tap
    And you walk or you’re serving twenty you work for me
    Your lawyer’s telling you to take it
    No no no
    #2
    I’m with you in regard to defending free speech. I’m not so with you in regard to packaging freedom with unmitigated hatred of corporations.

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