Rhea Myers

Three Cultures

Copyright is traditionally intended to apply to Mass Culture. That is, mass-produced commercial culture. Mass Culture is appropriated Folk Culture, it is kitsch by definition.

Folk Culture is a network externality to Mass Culture. It is a commons, shared and unexploited, built anonymously by individuals as part of their personal and shared experience. It has value, but if you try to measure it you change it.

(There’s private culture, private use of culture. We’ll collapse that into folk culture to keep to the magic number of three.)

Then there’s High Culture. Often drawing on the others, often drawn on by the others. The art of the ruling class, and/or of the avant-garde. Neither mass-produced nor a product of everyday life.

Copyright is spilling over from Mass to Folk (including private, indeed particularly to private) and High culture. It’s cutting off its own supply of source material and failing to provide substitutes for what it is trying to displace. Trying to prevent value being taken whilst failing to recognise that it takes value itself.

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