What the Copyfight Is About

Beyond art

A common tactic in discussions about the Internet as a free-speech medium is to discount Internet discourse as inherently trivial. Who cares about blurry kitten pictures, illiterate YouTube trolling, and Facebook posts about what your toddler said on the way to day care? Do we really want to trade all the pleasure and economic activity generated by the entertainment industry for that? The usual rebuttal is to point out all the “worthy” ways that we communicate online: the scholarly discussions, the terminally ill comforting one another, the distance education that lifts poor and excluded people out of their limited straits, the dissidents who post videos of secret police murdering street protesters.

All that stuff is important, but when it comes to interpersonal communications, trivial should be enough.

The reason nearly everything we put on the Internet seems “trivial” is because, seen in isolation, nearly everything we say and do is trivial. There is nothing of particular moment in the conversations I have with my wife over the breakfast table. There is nothing earthshaking in the stories I tell my daughter when we walk to daycare in the morning. This doesn’t mean that it’s sane, right, or even possible to regulate these interactions.

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