The Future of Ideas

In all likelihood, a hybrid solution of the methods and alternatives described above, and others I've neglected or that have yet to come to my attention, holds the most promise for the future of collaborative literature. While the specific methods are unclear, the direction that copyright needs to move in obvious. Popular conceptions of authorship and modern technology do not correspond to control articulated by copyright; millions see absolutely nothing wrong with trading a few songs on Napster, Audiogalaxy, KaZaa or the next peer-to-peer file trading service even though it is clearly illegal under copyright. Either society and technology is broken or it is copyright. Large copyright holders are pushing education campaigns to "fix" society and using the DMCA and closed technological standards and systems of "trust" to "fix" technology. They are attempting to "fix" the users because we have outgrown the legal apparatus and eventually, they will lose this battle.

While the Software Publishing Industry, the MPAA and the RIAA have occupied the spotlight in terms of copyright scandals and battles, the publishing industry is quietly waiting its turn. Its turn it seems, is at hand. The functional equivalent of Napster for books exists already and the "pirated" books scene is growing quickly. E-texts are beginning to flow freely and the web is facilitating plagiarism in ways that was not seen before. The storm is at hand.

Meanwhile, new tools for collaborative creation are growing alongside the peer-to-peer tools for collaborative distribution. People are able to write and distribute their own texts that will, probably before the same phenomena occurs int the music industry and certainly before it occurs with movies, simply create systems that, through the use of new collaborative technology and free licensing, operate outside the traditional publishing system absolutely. These systems are defining control in ways that support collaborative writing and, as it gains speed, will redefine literature once again.

An optimistic picture of the future remains vague but is not unimaginable. It is a place where community ideas are controlled by communities. It is a place where collaborative literature is controlled—perhaps the word "control" will be ill suited to the concept by this point—collaboratively.