Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019 | Last Update : 09:42 AM IST

Of Internet yug and copyright

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Sep 15, 2018, 5:57 am IST
Updated : Sep 15, 2018, 5:57 am IST

I suppose the name Johnny Depp wouldn’t mean much to people in a village in Savantwadi — or maybe in our internationalised yug, it would.

If Facebook, Google or any other trillionaire companies provide means by which a songster or writer’s material can be copied and proliferated, they will face severe fines which could, the report on this legislation says, cost them up to seven per cent of their trillion-dollar incomes.
 If Facebook, Google or any other trillionaire companies provide means by which a songster or writer’s material can be copied and proliferated, they will face severe fines which could, the report on this legislation says, cost them up to seven per cent of their trillion-dollar incomes.

“Emotion from poetry;
A worldview from prose;
Vanity from the Internet
And from photos of what-you-ate-for-breakfast?
God only knows!”
From The Enigmas of Departure by Bachchoo

I have taken to telling vain people I know that lying about one’s age is no longer feasible as Internet biographies contain our dates of birth. Most absorb this game-changing fact philosophically — even those who know they are not famous enough to have biographies on the Internet.

But then these have Facebook and the blogosphere, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder and other means of flashing their thoughts and selfies through the ether to garner followings.

In our age fame is a relative phenomenon.

And when I say “our age” I am aware that ages, “yugs” as the Vedic texts and epics call them, are changing very fast. I used to live in the Warhol Yug in which the “Word”, coined by the artist Andy Warhol was that “all of us will be famous for 15 minutes”. I suppose he was talking about the fleetingness of life or the vanity of human wishes or some such profundity.

I have passed from that yug through the Internet Yug and now ended up in the “hashtag-MEFIRST” Yug in which the “Word” is ME — repeated several times. O tempora, O mores!

But as I was saying, fame is relative and restricted perhaps to areas of interest.

Once in conversation with Charles Sobhraj, the notorious serial killer, he asked me who my literary agent was as he was looking to publish his memoirs. At the time my literary agent was a stately lady in the distinguished literary agency of David Higham. She had an accent like the Queen of England with very stringent taste (or perhaps not, as she liked my writing?). I didn’t think it appropriate to introduce Sobhraj to her but I hit upon the right name to consider representing him. I said I’d call up Giles Gordon and he, being a man of the world and very clever, would perhaps take Sobhraj on.

“Who is this Giles?” Sobhraj asked.

“He represents the very successful writer Vikram Seth,” I said.

“Who is Vikram Seth?” Sobhraj asked.

I don’t suppose the Tihar Jail Times had a page of literary reviews, so Sobhraj could be excused. And the next time I met Vikram I was tempted to ask him if he’d ever heard of Charles Sobhraj, but I forbore.

Perhaps notoriety is not the same as fame and that might be clear when one considers the type of person who lends themselves to reality shows such as Love Island, a very popular British TV bore-o-rama in which couples are isolated and encouraged to fornicate.

On the other hand, actors and singers are perhaps legitimately famous, but they too have their spheres of interest. For instance, I have often heard of Kim Kardashian, but the only thing I know about her is that she has had her bum made bigger surgically. The fact inspires a certain sort of awe but certainly not respect.

I suppose the name Johnny Depp wouldn’t mean much to people in a village in Savantwadi — or maybe in our internationalised yug, it would. What’s certain is that outside the audience of Bollywood, say in America or Europe, apart from some section of the NRI population, no one would know Anurag from Anonymous or Kangana from Kangaroo. They have to be satisfied with their 1.2 billion Indians and places where Indian films are popular (And this doesn’t include films shown in hired theatres at Cannes — they have nothing to do with the Cannes Film Festival and are now an established Indian con. And the Mediterranean town’s name is pronounced by the French as “can” as in tin and not “Carnz” as in the boasts of the con-artists!).

Gentle reader, I began by saying one cannot hide one’s real age, but even as I write, I have come across the fact that one can. The European Union has in the past legalised a right to anonymity. It requires Internet entities such as Google and Facebook to respect the right of people to “be forgotten”. I can demand that my profile be removed from the Internet and the people who have put it there — let’s say Wickedpedia, have to, by law remove it, so nobody will henceforth know that I have reached the ripe age of 47, or whatever.

And now to add injury and insult the millions who walk about with their ears plugged into the ends of cords attached to their phones, this same EU is proposing banning the copying of copyright material from the free Internet. So, people like Paul McCartney, who really needs the money, can’t have his songs pirated by music providers and passed on by etheric means without paying him his royalties.

If Facebook, Google or any other trillionaire companies provide means by which a songster or writer’s material can be copied and proliferated, they will face severe fines which could, the report on this legislation says, cost them up to seven per cent of their trillion-dollar incomes. Heavy duty, dude!

There are voices within the EU who oppose the move — not on the grounds that those who live in a rap-or-other sound dimension will be deprived and have to go back to thinking, but because the policing operation will be electronic and done through filters which will recognise certain constructs and ban, delete or bring them to the attention of a human team.

This, say the objectors, would pick up satirical items and parodies, which use the words of their victims and filter them out.

The EU and indeed the world have to now consider whether the likes of myself and Paul (McCartney), who would lose royalties if their work is duplicated and googlated, are worth championing. Or if the right to parody on the Internet should be upheld and the legislation abandoned?

I think we should put it to a worldwide vote. On Google?

Competition: guess how I’d vote.

Tags: copyright, google, internet yug