Talk Hard, Be Heard

More than 20 years ago, a little movie called Pump Up The Volume hit theaters.

Key to the plot is something that is now completely alien to anyone born the same year the film came out: a pirate radio station. The core of the story, though, is no less relate-able or important than it was then: a high school kid looking for answers, looking for acceptance, looking to be heard.

The world was different then…

Back before the Web hit it big at the end of the 90s, there was no easy way to be heard. Every now and then, someone would cobble together the equipment to pump out a few watts of broadcast power (against the law, mind you) and share some of their favorite music to whoever tuned in. Or, maybe, they’d hit the local copy shop and make a few dozen copies of a roughly put together magazine composed of original writings and some other stuff they’d read that they wanted to share (in some cases, also illegal). Or, maybe they just put it all together onto a cassette tape and made a few copies to pass around school.

No matter what, before the Web was something everyone knew about, there weren’t good ways to be heard by a wide audience unless you had money and prestige–things most high school students couldn’t even begin to lay claim to.

Now anyone can do it.

Anyone with access to a public library or a friend’s computer can now go out, log on, and start putting their thoughts out there. They can share video clips on YouTube. They can put together a podcast. They can start up a blog (or three) about anything they want.

With a little bit of work, they can build an audience.

They can be heard.

And yet, a lot of what goes on in those YouTube channels, in those podcasts, on those blogs, is, in the strictest terms illegal. Even when it should fall under the Fair Use clause.

‘Fair Use’ is constantly under attack.

Sadly, the idea of the Fair Use section of copyright law has been under attack for decades. The big businesses leading that attack are the same ones who have crafted the SOPA and PIPA legislation that many people are up in arms about today.

The RIAA and MPAA don’t want you to be able to use any of their stuff without paying through the nose for it. They don’t understand (or don’t want to understand) that the main way entertainment content has always been spread is by people sharing it. If they can find a way to stop you–and charge you–they will.

Even if it means silencing everyone.

Piracy is a real problem but…

Yes, there are real problems with copyrighted content being stolen and distributed. Yes, the massive, foreign, pirate operations need to be stopped or curtailed. But that can’t come at the cost of our ability to share fairly.

On a smaller level, though, technically illegal sharing is what’s built a good bunch of the famous bands, actors, and writers out there. If you hadn’t been introduced to that band through that YouTube mashup of their song and your favorite movie, you wouldn’t have bought their album. If you hadn’t seen that short story posted online in your favorite forum, you wouldn’t have been so keen to buy the author’s next collection.

There’s a reason copyright has a fair use clause. There’s a reason groups like Creative Commons have sprung up with alternative ideas to how the rights of creators can be allocated and managed. There’s a reason a friend gives you a copy of that song they’re always listening to.

That reason is simple. We’re social creatures.

We want to be heard.

It’s how we find answers.

Pump Up The Volume is kind of a heavy film. Thick with teen angst and suicide, sprinkled with offensive language and taboo ideas.

Without that kind of talk, though, we never learn who we are… or who we can be.

The main reason for boundaries is so we can push on them, so they can push on us. Breaking through them or standing on the verge and shouting at them or hiding behind them give us all definition. They bring us together as much as they drive us apart.

And it’s our music and movies and books and ideas that put it all in context. It’s how we share them with one another–hopefully as legally as possible (hopefully it will remain possible to share them legally)–that satiates our thirst for connection.

We don’t have to break the law to be heard.

But we do have to ensure that we speak out loudly enough to keep that from changing.

We’re seeing that with the current protests against greedy corporations (the Occupy Wall Street movement). We’re seeing that with the online outcry over the SOPA/PIPA bills.

That’s what we have to keep doing. All the time. No matter what the personal consequences.

And with that, I share with you this clip, the final moments of Pump Up the Volume. Something I wouldn’t be able to do without this wonderful, free, social, and somewhat illegal technology to which we all have access.

Talk Hard.

Pump Up The Volume End Scene

About Kier

I've been on the web since about 1994. I have a background in a lot of things, including a five year stint as a journalist and over a decade of helping people get their message out to the world.

I write on a number of subjects--everything from relationships to personal development to politics and every day life. I hope you get something worthwhile out of it.

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