Numbers don’t lie, lobbyists do. Comic author Rob Reid unveils Copyright Math in this TED Talk, a remarkable new field of study based on actual numbers from entertainment industry lawyers and lobbyists.
Reid’s goal was to capture and represent some of the rhetoric from that past decade and a half in a way that would fill the hall with laughter, even if some of it came at the expense of some clearly ridiculous industry arguments. “Everyone can laugh at silly infographics,” Reid opined while silently crushing the serious journalism dreams of hacks everywhere. “And who doesn’t want to deface a Leave-it-to-Beaver-like Christmas scene with pirate-and-Santa graffiti?”
The brilliance of Reid’s talk is that he thoroughly skewers the content industry’s dubious appeal to quantitative reasoning. We’ve all see the headlines proclaiming huge numbers of dollars, jobs, and patents lost to piracy. The appeal to quantitative measures is supposed to undermine counterarguments by doing two things: slyly stepping into a (pretend) world of objectivity, and raising the alarm with big, scary numbers. It’s hard to look at those kinds of headlines in the same way after Reid’s elegantly hilarious skewering.
Reid’s examination of Copyright Math began when he started working on his soon-to-be published debut science fiction novel, Year Zero, which Random House is publishing in early July (we’ll be reviewing it). Year Zero tells the story of how the toxic legal byproducts of some overly litigious lawyers cause problems that make global warming seem downright cozy. Not to give it away, but could you imagine how pissed off an alien music lover might get if he was sued into bankruptcy for pirating a few lousy Rick Astley songs?