10 March 2024

Semicivilized Platter in the Wurst Way

Sometimes life 🦉 interferes at the sausage factory, and then one needs to throw out a bunch of spoiled stuff. Unfortunately, as it's election season (for eight more months, which is part of the problem), the news is going to look primarily like spoiled sausage ingredients for a while, and since the point of "sausages" is preserving the dodgier bits of dead animals…

  • …perhaps more than anything else the spoilage concerns "monetizing content." The obvious connection is the EU's imposition of rules making techbro darlings slightly less insulated from accountability than organized crime, but only slightly in the context of companies with market valuations making this fine a rounding error in the account books. Just like purported nonprofit shenanigans, though, this is not going to trickle down to authors and other creators of "content." Some people are actively destreaming (and the article neglects the biggest reason to rely on offline storage like DVDs: loss of, and eyebrow-raising moralistic restrictions on, access — that is, misuse of the concept of "licensing" and silently converting "access" to "one-time admission fee," rejecting the very concept of the "personal, long-term library" in a way I find intolerable).
  • Of course, it could be worse. It is, and one need not consider whether female psychopaths somehow get starring roles in purported informative speeches that have devolved to partisan spectacles in my lifetime or misuse of anecdotes isolated from context as sub rosa, post hoc rationalizations of outright bigotry. (One need not wield a knife and cackle in a TikTok video to be a psychopath. I'm not claiming to perform a diagnosis; I'm using the term in its wider, nontechnical sense — like asserting that "Stalin was a psychopath" despite his, umm, delegation skills.) There are disturbing connections to tyranny and to "political bias" (for any value thereof) in "generative AI" systems lurking in there, too.
  • Returning to "not going to trickle down to creators," consider vanity presses hiding their nature. Once upon a time, perhaps even PW would have refused to publicize this crap: It's dressier language, but it still requires authors to (a) have spare financial capital to contribute in addition to the same intellectual-property capital they've always contributed, meaning that Undesireables — especially meaning those without the Right Ethnicity, the Right Private Educations, and the Right Passive/Preaccumulated Wealth — will not be welcome, (b) trust that these highly-experienced commercial-publishing figures can drag their heads out of the rampant financial (and other) mistakes embedded in commercial publishing and its distribution model(s), and (c) going beyond mere "mistakes," that whatever royalty statements do get issued will be timely and honest, under the stewardship of people who know only a culture of people dependant upon untimely and dishonest. (Really: 90 days to account and another 30 or more to pay, together with the "reserve against returns"???)

    Once upon a time, United Artists purported to outmaneuver the moguls (for the benefit of on-screen talent and "filmmakers"… but excluding screenwriters, musicians, cinematographers, animators, and the predecessors of "special-effects" creators in a rather intense bit of foreshadowing). It didn't take all that long for the moguls to take over, though. This time, they're in on the ground floor, converting their post-IP-creation labor into equity interests in that IP. And during the history of UA, it was neither more nor less abusive or dishonest about complying with payments to the "talent" than the rest of the film industry. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to provide citations, because the disputes didn't generate nonconfidential, publicly-accessible records very often — and still don't.

  • But that thread pulled out from the snarl is all ready to snap right back in when the compensation at issue is the dubious mixture of power and survival under tyrannical governments. Loyalty is no panacaea, either; eventually, artistic truth speaks not necessarily directly to, but certainly inconsistently with, power, and perhaps even moreso when the "power" appears as generational conflicts purportedly "resolved" by The Law (and use of the definite article there is intentionally inaccurate). If there's one thing that the literary-theory wars from the 1960s through 1990s should have taught us, it's that Orwell's aphorism that "[t]he opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude" applies equally to "nonartistic" texts — and not just to the writer, but the interpreter, who is after all engaging in "writing" him/her/theirself. This is one area in which law devoutly and intentionally distinguishes itself from anything resembling reality — and, worse, proclaims that a virtue.