I just finished going through an interesting short series of Youtube videos called “Everything is a Remix“. They’re well-written, filled with interesting ideas, and for a moment, even made me question the concept of modern copyright and patent law more than I already do. Make no mistake, I don’t agree with the corruption that has latched itself onto modern copyright and patent law. It’s become an easily-abused system that abandons the classic idea of making sure creators are credited and properly rewarded for their novelty and replaces it with one that punishes creativity when it uses anything even slightly derivative of existing work. Have a look at the link. If you like any of the exploratory shows on Youtube, such as “SciShow”,” Vsauce”, or even the clickbaity but still interesting “TodayIFoundOut”, you’ll probably like this as well. I know I did.
And this is where the problem comes in. Like many personalities on the internet and even elsewhere, the message of “Everything is a Remix” gets muddied after you finish that short series and want to move on. After a little exploration to find out more, I found the creator has a different channel from the one I first saw the series on. I found it originally through a search under TheRebelSound’s channel. I’m guessing this was a reupload. I figured, like with most Youtube channels I like, I’d check out the original creator’s channel to bring in some ad revenue. I then quickly discovered that, also like many other Youtubers, he’s branched off into a new series, titled “This is Not a Conspiracy Theory”. It’s the channel main video even. So I watched it, because, hey, conspiracy theories are always interesting, even if they’re completely convoluted.
It was more of the same style, which is good. I enjoyed his presentation, so I was engrossed the whole way through. Then I got to the end of the video and my face contorted into a hideous parody of itself. At 5:46 into the 8 minute video, I noticed something odd. Something I didn’t expect: “Click Here to Purchase Now”. This seems… odd considering the 5 videos I had just watched.
Now, to fully understand this, you’d have to watch the full original. Obviously, I agree with the guy about the intellectual property system becoming a mockery of its intent, but he said something that made me roll my eyes. I’ll paraphrase here. Just imagine this said with a slightly disgusted tone of voice and an obvious disdain: “Ideas became property”. Doesn’t take much more than that. In the context and with the tone of voice used, it’s pretty obvious that this guy doesn’t care much for the idea of charging for art, which is obviously what is being created in this video and his “new” series.
Okay, so people need to eat, and they need to put into a project enough to produce it, at the very least. If you’re a greedy capitalist you’re going to want to make a buttload of profit off things. Here’s the thing, though: Kirby Ferguson, the creator, made a Kickstarter for this project. Great idea! Have people donate and give them special prizes for each “tier” of donation. This was in 2012, now 5 years ago. With a promise of at least 80 minutes of run-time, a $10 donation was pretty fair for 1080p DRM-free copies of the videos. Now, if you didn’t get in on the ground-floor, you’re going to have to pony up $14.99, which is sales-speak for $15. I guess that’s not so bad. A WoW subscription is $15 a month! Though, depending on how much you want to no-life it, that $15 a month can provide you with 80 minutes a day worth of entertainment. Sure, it’s not quite as unique unless you’re just starting out, but let’s say you are just now buying World of Warcraft. It’s a bit pricier to start out with, at about $18 on Amazon.com right now. Included in the base game when you buy it is: The base game, five expansions, 30 days of play time, and a neat box. Plus technical support. Answers for how long it takes someone to level from 1-100 (which is the level limit if you buy just the box) range from 2 days to a couple weeks, depending on how hardcore you level. That 2 days is talking serious no-life standards, too. We’re basically talking almost 48 full hours of playing the game non-stop, and most of the people talking about it are adding in experience-gain items and knowing the game in and out, exploiting easy XP gains, as well as just generally playing the game not to enjoy the experience but to rush to max level. Most people won’t do this their first time through. Realistically, you’re talking about several weeks, probably the entirety of your included 30-day subscription, to “ding” level 100. Realistically, far more for most people.
Now, obviously, we’re comparing a passive video to an active video game, but if you’ve never played WoW, it’s a fun new experience if you don’t get mired down with trolls (figurative, not the literal race). Even moreso if you make a new character on the other faction, with a whole new storyline to explore for most of your level 1-60 experience. Point is, the time you get to enjoy this video game can easily outweigh the experience of this guy’s admittedly good video, for a couple bucks more. You could easily spend 8,000 minutes playing the game and experiencing new things the whole way through, even if some of the actions and experiences are similar or even downright copy-pasted. They still feel fresh and new, and you get a ton of story for the time as well. That’s 100x the time spent enjoying and exploring something new, experiencing dread, beauty, trepidation, and the sweet sensation of victory over adversity, for two dollars more than what he’s asking.
The biggest difference, though? Blizzard Entertainment is a for-profit company that has never made it unclear that they want your money to play their games. Frankly, they have put more value into their games per dollar as time has gone on. If you bought the game when it was brand-new, stopped playing it after a month, then came back today, you’d have made a huge investment with your money, as the expansions were added for free as the new ones came out. What does this creator bring to the table? “At least” 80 minutes of a good nonfiction movie, for which he’s already been paid $54,610 by 2,231 people. That’s an average of $24.47 per person interested in the project. Again, this is the project created by a man who speaks the words “intellectual property” with the same vitriol that Anita Sarkeesian says the words “misogyny” and “male”.
I bring up Sarkeesian for a reason. She did her own crowdfunded project, and now has another one. There are positive and negative comparisons here, but let’s start with the negative for Fergie. He has released his videos roughly a year apart, judging by the “preview” videos. Based on those, his most recent video was nearly-complete about 2 months ago, with the previous installment at about 1 year ago, and episode 2, well, about two years ago. The original video was 3 years ago. That is a LONG time for content to be updated in the world of the interbutts. Content creators on Youtube like, say, PewDiePie upload new, very long videos, pretty much daily. Some of the more scripted and polished creators might take a week or two. Team Four Star can take several months between episodes occasionally, but on average, take about a month because it’s a massive collaboration that edits and animates video, rather than just one person putting up pictures or taking webcam video of himself talking about something. Everyone has lives, and they are no exception. They don’t get much monetization because they have to swim in the sea of copyright. But what about Sarkeesian? Well, let’s face it: Her videos are slammed, and, in my opinion, rightly so. They are full of horrifying SJW rhetoric and make logical fallacies all over the place. Basically, they’re decent-budget vlogs, in which a relatively-attractive woman tells you that you’re a bad person for liking video games if you’re white and male. She also took several months between each of her “Tropes vs. Women” videos, and before even coming close to what she’d promised, she started a new crowdfunding campaign for her next series. “Tropes vs. Women” still trickles in a new video every 6 or so months, but she’s already stretching herself thin, and losing quite a bit of interest.
So, we’re going to move on to the good. First off, let’s be completely fair about Fergie. He made no promises on the timeline for his “This is Not a Conspiracy Theory” video series. He actually stated in the initial video that this would take quite a while to make. Yes, the excuses were flimsy but he has delivered some additional content in the meantime, though it’s been quite sparse. Still, he was upfront, if nebulous, about the timeframe. The video he put out first was actually quite well-made, though not exactly a cut above something that might be produced by an actual conspiracy theory channel on Youtube. I’m sure his Kickstarter campaign promises were also kept for the most part, allowing people behind-the-scenes access and more direct interaction, something that is absolutely not applicable to Sarkeesian, who disables votes and comments on her videos. But what has she done for her supporters? Well, her videos are quite well-produced, with quality similar to that of some of the corporate-backed videos like MTV’s Decoded (another hateful, racist series). She also kept up and delivered a few videos with the content that was promised, for the most part. It wasn’t exactly regular updates like you see with a professional, but she was able to at least do a few parts.
Unfortunately, there’s a disparity here that’s impossible to ignore. Anita is, effectively, a radical feminist who seeks only to forward the narrative that intersectional feminism is the answer for most of the west’s problems. It’s an insane viewpoint, but it’s not completely inconsistent with a Kickstarter campaign that fails to deliver on its promises. After all, the promise of modern feminism is to bring equality to the sexes, but baby boys are still being circumcised and it took Republicans to equalize the draft, even if it was in the wrong direction. I’ll get into that in another post, though. Just know that Anita, for once, wasn’t being a hypocrite about her videos. They are released freely, with ad content, on Youtube. Unfortunately for Fergie, the same cannot be said about intellectual honesty.
Intellectual honesty, unlike intellectual property, is a pretty clear-cut thing. Practice what you preach and you’re intellectually honest. People change, of course, but when you’re pulling to get a sequel to your video series on the horrors of IP rights, charging more for 80 minutes of digital video than it costs for a Blu-Ray copy of “Spaceballs” (though, why do you not already own a copy? It’s eight bucks. Just get it, you stingy bastard), which has a runtime of 97 minutes seems a little disingenuous.
That’s really my issue here. I have zero issue with content creators wanting to get paid. If some shyster wants to sell you a DVD set of his “get rich quick” video series for $49.99, hey, more power to him if he can get people to fall for it. If Blizzard wants to feed your heroin-like habit of MMO games, that’s pretty admirable since they actually keep getting the money. Hell, if Anita Sarkeesian wants to ask for $6,000 and gets… $158,922- wait wut? Off her misguided fans, that’s fine. She’s a complete scam-artist, but at least she doesn’t pretend that money is the root of all evil. Usually.
“This is Not a Conspiracy Theory” seemed like a pretty cool idea for a series. Asking for $15 isn’t an absurd amount, admittedly. It’s, of course, extremely expensive for what amounts to well-produced Youtube videos, the likes of which you can go watch on Vsauce for free, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is the anti-capitalist, copyleft rhetoric without the complimentary action that bothers me. It’s like System of the Down naming something “Steal this Album!” and then their label aggressively seeking litigation for online piracy. Oh. Wait. They were under Columbia Records at the time, a label known for aggressively seeking litigation for online piracy, and American Records, also a member of the RIAA. Well. Damn. At least they’re not as overtly communistic as Rage Against the Machine, while taking in millions of dollars from the capitalistic sale of their intellectual property. And I say that without sarcasm for once. Leftist, yes, and probably believes in the idea of communism, but they aren’t an overtly anti-capitalist band. Unlike Fergie.
To reiterate, Fergie’s previous video series was all about how everyone borrows from everyone else, and that ideas should be free. Remixing and reusing old ideas, toning and shaping them to make new ones, and standing on the backs of giants, all concepts I’m borrowing from his videos, are the building blocks of his idea of a proper modern artistic culture. Within the copyleft movement, it’s pretty well-understood that charging for your work is essentially okay, but generally not heavily-encouraged. It’s not necessarily actual hypocrisy, but it sure feels like it.
You might notice a lack of banner ads, pop-ups, and general “hey, buy this” on my website. This is partially because I despise ads, and partially because, for the moment, I don’t have much of an audience. In fact, if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of tens of people. This isn’t some moral standpoint. I pay for the server right now, because I want a place to express my opinions, even if nobody’s listening. That’s the beauty of free speech: You can express yourself, but people probably won’t listen. Right now, I’m getting 300 gigs of webspace with 3,000 gigs of transfer for $56.52 a year. If I get a reddit hug or something, I might just add a simple Google banner or something, maybe endorse some crap so I can move up to the unlimited plan for around $100 a year. Might also hire someone to design a new PHP website so I don’t have to slum around with a WordPress theme. Until that time, though, you get to read my mindless, pointless ranting for absolutely free. Just be sure to use Ghostery even now.