Lucky 13

Digital Rights Management systems (DRM, anti-piracy measures) don’t protect anyone. 

The consumer experience is degraded, and pirates either find a way around it or give up on the experience. Never has any pirate decided to buy a movie or a game or a book or an album because he didn’t manage to pirate it.

The opposite is true. Some pirates, post-experience, can become customers. They can evangelize the art. They can become fans. I saw it happen with my first book. When I found it on a piracy site, my attitude was not to tell people not to download it.

I left a comment explaining how the book sales contributed to my quality of life. I asked that, should they enjoy the book, to consider making a purchase, or at least to recommend it to someone.

I made some sales. I won some fans. It was not bad at all.

But copyright laws are not the same thing as DRM. Copyright laws protect an idea, not an object. 

It’s a sensitive case because ideas have no barriers. We have no control over what takes over our mind. When we hear a song, we do not know what effect it will have on us before we listen to it; we may very well listen to it without ever intending to. 

But once inside, the music can take over our soul, inspire us. Who has the right to tell us what to do with something that they threw into the world, and proceeded to cling to our head like a particularly stubborn mollusk, perhaps even through no fault of our own?

The reverse side of the coin, of course, is that artists deserve to have control over their work, not only over the physical or virtual objects which function as delivery mechanisms to the consumer. 

No artist likes to see his work defaced, prostituted, plagiarised. It’s easy to give in to cynicism and assume that the issue of copyright is solely about money, born out of greed. And it may well be like for many people, but not for real artists. Never for those. Art, true art, the kind that outlives trends, is hard labor. The artist sacrifices a piece of their life, of their divine being, one which they will never recover.

To what extent is it our right to cannibalize the product of this sacrifice?

When we send a child into the world, we can’t expect everyone to treat them like we would like. Some people will take advantage of our children. They will mistreat them. And others will steal them from us in the best possible way – captivating them, gaining their love and friendship. This, we must make peace with. It’s part of the social contract that we engage with when we bring a human being in this world.

But accepting that isn’t the same as saying that everyone out there has the right to do whatever they please with that human being.

About Beethoven’s Last Night

I have already written about my peculiar relationship with music. Exceptions are usually songs that tell stories. I’m not the right person to assess musical quality, but stories are my life, so it does not surprise me that a song which incorporates a narrative catches my attention.

I am not necessarily talking about a musical number at the theatre or the movies. Those never sat well with me; it felt like the prose was being forced into the music. A story does not mean dialogue; it does not mean prose. A handful of good stanzas is enough when you know what you’re doing.

One of my favorite albums is “Beethoven’s Last Night” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It is a brilliant rock opera that, across its 22 tracks, tells the story of the composer’s last night.

But like the best stories, it frames it as a battle between good and evil. At the gates of death, the artist despairs to finish his last work, and primordial forces arise to fight for his soul. Hell appears incarnate in Mephistopheles. The heavens send a muse, under the guise of an old love.

Music represents the dialogue between these three parts. Mephistopheles does everything to convince the composer of the futility of his efforts; the muse encourages him to persist, to create his final work in praise and honor to the Divine. Throughout the album, Beethoven vacillates between inspiration and despair, under the influence of these two forces. It is one of the most beautiful metaphors the artistic process that I had witnessed.

That all this is transmitted so vividly, so colorfully, through short verses and the power of music… That is simply exceptional.

So who wins, after all, the soul of the composer?

You can find out by listening to the album:

It is worth leaving my usual note here: we live in a fantastic time in which we have beautiful art at our disposal, completely free of charge. If such a work captures your imagination, if such art inspires you, then that is a signal to ponder the possibility of buying what is freely given, and thus support the artist.

The Invincible Rose

Nothing else felt like this. Saddled atop her horse, overlooking the battlefield where the faithful fought against the barbarians under the scorching sun, Lyria fell into perfect communion with her God.

His warmth, His energy, His divine power – all this flowed like water from a stream, directly into her body from the divine star that shone in the sky.

And just as she felt the power wash over and into her, so did she feel it come out, through her eyes, fingers, through the pores of her skin – it radiated around her, funneling strength and courage into her soldiers, punishing her enemies with heat and weariness.

She was the Sun, and the Sun was She – The Rose of the North had become the Hand of Lohander in Elessia. As was her destiny. As was her birthright.

She was one with her God.

She was invincible.

Art by Macarious via DeviantArt