What is the technology telling us? That copies don't count any more. Copies of isolated books, bound between inert covers, soon won't mean much. Copies of their texts, however, will gain in meaning as they multiply by the millions and are flung around the world, indexed and copied again. What counts are the ways in which these common copies of a creative work can be linked, manipulated, annotated, tagged, highlighted, bookmarked, translated, enlivened by other media and sewn together into the universal library. Soon a book outside the library will be like a Web page outside the Web, gasping for air. Indeed, the only way for books to retain their waning authority in our culture is to wire their texts into the universal library.Kelly takes the extreme position that copyright holders will have to give up on the outmoded practice of making money from selling copies. No matter how much they've been able to get their needs served by legislators, the sheer force of technology will defeat them in the end.
[T]he economic model built on [copies] is collapsing. In a regime of superabundant free copies, copies lose value. They are no longer the basis of wealth. Now relationships, links, connection and sharing are. Value has shifted away from a copy toward the many ways to recall, annotate, personalize, edit, authenticate, display, mark, transfer and engage a work. Authors and artists can make (and have made) their livings selling aspects of their works other than inexpensive copies of them. They can sell performances, access to the creator, personalization, add-on information, the scarcity of attention (via ads), sponsorship, periodic subscriptions — in short, all the many values that cannot be copied. The cheap copy becomes the "discovery tool" that markets these other intangible valuables.How painful it must be to the average author -- an introvert -- to hear that the new way of making money will be selling personal access to you.
Kelly is very good at getting us excited about how great it will be to have all of humanity's writing in position for infinite linking, but way too blithe about the burden to be inflicted on writers. In his technology triumphalism, he goes so far as to say:
Having searchable works is good for culture. It is so good, in fact, that we can now state a new covenant: Copyrights must be counterbalanced by copyduties. In exchange for public protection of a work's copies (what we call copyright), a creator has an obligation to allow that work to be searched. No search, no copyright.So Kelly would not even permit the author with a highly saleable book to opt out of being scanned into the system. That's harsh. Maybe it's a bargaining chip for the legal dealing that is going on. But he's very convincing when he talks about the benefits to most authors, whose works go out of print and lose economic potential. For them, moving from oblivion into a lively system of linkage is a great benefit.