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Arts and Culture

Mark Fischer on Copyright in the Digital Age

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Posted on Jan 30, 2009

By Mark A. Fischer

Lawrence Lessig, now back at Harvard Law School after years as a Stanford Law professor and lawyer, is uneasy about copyright. In his new book, “Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy,” Lessig argues that current U.S. copyright laws stand in the way of their stated purpose—of encouraging creativity. But, what, one may ask, is creativity anyway? Is it the original inspiration of Melville’s “Moby Dick”? Or is it a DJ’s playlist of electronica? Or a kid’s Machinima video? Lessig seems to believe that all are equally creative. How should the very notion of copyright evolve in this new context in which everyone is thought to be a creator and everyone dreams of being an Internet star?

The so-called copyright industries (such as record labels, movie studios, book publishers and newspapers) were, in a sense, precocious about feeling the pain of economic turmoil. The agent for change is a familiar one: the Internet. We do think of ourselves of being creative—even if it’s as simple as using Photoshop to alter an image we shot or using a Flip video cam to record a wedding. We can all express our creativity internationally now in what is commonly called “user-generated content.”

 

book cover

 

Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy

 

By Lawrence Lessig

 

Penguin, 352 pages

 

Buy the book

 

It’s old news that technology has given us wonderful tools to create content, to copy the content of others, and to distribute content (yours, mine, anyone’s) worldwide. What Lessig is most concerned with, however, is the ability to manipulate (or “remix”) and distribute content. For example, you can upload on the Internet your video of your 3-year-old dancing in combination with Prince’s music and W.H. Auden’s poetry. Maybe the world will instantly love the combination of diverse elements, maybe not. What is important is whether you have the right to remix Prince’s music or Auden’s poetry free of charge or even any acknowledgment.

The Internet’s immediate international distribution capability changes everything. A remixer confined to the untethered laptop on the kitchen table isn’t going to affect existing copyright law, the neighbors or the world. Still the question remains: If the technology to remix and distribute content already exists for us (and it does), is copyright a nuisance standing in the way of the future or does copyright have value? Lessig’s answer seems to be “yes” to both.

How best can legislators change copyright law so that it encourages creativity by remixers and doesn’t stand in its way? Lessig draws a distinction between “amateur” remixes (which he argues should pretty much be unencumbered for free use) and professional remixes (which should be subject to copyright law, albeit a revised copyright law that is harder to enforce). It’s a difficult distinction to maintain in a practical sense, though, because so many of the well-known Web sites that host user-generated content (remixes or otherwise), like MySpace, are commercial entities.

Professional authors have to work for food—that is, unless they have day jobs, perhaps as professors, lawyers or insurance executives. The number of brilliant creators (academics excepted) able to thrive in the twin endeavors of both art and day-to-day unrelated commerce is a small club (Charles Ives, Wallace Stevens come to mind; Madonna and Jay-Z’s business acumen is largely directed at the music business itself). Quitting your day job doesn’t guarantee creative genius, but it surely nurtures it. If we move toward making content free for copying, distribution and remixing, the professional creators and their distributors will have an even tougher future. Erosion of the copyright system comes at a price. If we have to choose between encouraging original creativity and remixing, why not err on the side of encouraging the originators? 

It isn’t cool or fashionable to say it, but copyright law has been a roaring success (at least up to the past decade or so). One example: The sensational era of popular recorded music from in the 1950s until around the end of the 20th century has enriched us all (yes, including record companies, artists, music publishers and songwriters). The system actually worked pretty well, pre-Internet. Today, the copyright system is in need of real change because we behave differently.

Lessig illustrates well how in the past we were in a passive Read Only (“RO”) culture; in other words, the public consisted of readers, not creators. Today, he argues, we are also in a Read Write (“RW”) culture, in which readers are both passive and active as creators. He believes that the RW culture doesn’t compete with or undermine the market for the underlying works. That’s sometimes true, but not always. A remix could capture the public imagination as much as does the original. If remixers are creative—and that’s Lessig’s core point—why wouldn’t they ride others’ works to fame and (maybe) fortune?

The RW culture gave the “content industries” control over means of sharing content. Lessig notes that open-source software and Wikipedia have been achievements in innovatively sharing otherwise protectable content. These are, however, voluntary contributions of content to the common good. The remixers, on the other hand, unilaterally copy and modify the content of others. 

One thing missing from Lessig’s book is sufficient acknowledgement and encouragement of the role of the original creator. It’s the creator’s inspiration that makes it possible for a remixer to remix. Even if one believes that there can be only seven basic underlying plots, a remixer who changes half of someone else’s book or most of the lyrics in another’s song isn’t the same as an originator. (In trying to quantify a remix, Lessig defines it, in some contexts, as a “transformative work,” echoing a standard some courts have used to help determine a question of “fair use.”)

Lessig also doesn’t appear to acknowledge the desire of originators to protect their works from distortion. In the United States creators (endowed with the most important word in the entertainment business—leverage) can via contracts protect (to some degree) their integrity as creators and their work against distortion. Without leverage, U.S. creators have little protection. In the United States we have virtually no droit moral—the moral rights that in some countries, notably France, protect the integrity of an artist and his or her work against distortion, among other things. This point matters because in a world where remixers can harvest the works of prior creators without permission or without payment of a fee, the original creators don’t just lose out on money—they lose out on asserting control over their works.


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By Henry09, February 11, 2009 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

WriterOnTheStorm,

Re: “One wonders how these same folks would feel if pharmaceutical companies stopped developing new drugs because cheap knockoffs had completely stymied their profit potential…”

Actually we should have more generic drugs, not less.

Extending patent or copyright protection in medicine to unreasonable lengths and forcing it on developing nations - or anyone - only benefits a few corporations and limits innovation.

How many people in poor countries - or people here in the US - cannot get access to life saving medicines because of draconian patent protection that makes medicine too expensive and there is no cheaper alternative? They’re too many and that’s not an unsubstantiated claim.

I’m not knocking pharmaceuticals in general. There are many good medicines out there. But generic imitations created after copyright expiration are not the problem.

The book “Against Intellectual Monopoly” did a great job studying the patent system and big pharma.

It also addressed your question - and cited plenty of data - about artists still being able to make money if IP laws were liberalized. Even if you disagree with their ideas for reform… and I don’t agree with all of their ideas either.. I still highly recommend reading it so you can better understand where people like me are coming from.

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By Henry09, February 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment

Adam,

I think your comment was actually directed at me. But I’ll go ahead and respond anyway…

You can make money giving away things for free, I do it and I know others who do it. You can give things away for free on the front end and make money on the back end. Use your imagination.

A few examples among many…

Google lets you search for free or use other tools for free and they make money. They use Linux, an open source software, and Linus Torvalds is doing pretty well.

Sites like this one let us come here free and allow us to read or make comments for free… something tells me that although they’re not getting rich doing this they’re doing well enough to continue their work, otherwise they would not.

They’re all sorts of free newsletters out there published by companies who also sell books, sell paid subscription newsletters, etc.

Jack White gave a bass player permission to add bass tracks to White Stripes songs… Beck and NIN put their stuff on Creative Commons… are the White Stripes, Beck, or NIN going broke? Hardly.

Would Jack White go broke if a bass player did it without permission? No… doing it without permission would be unethical in my opinion… but White would still make plenty of money.

Your “argument” is a weak one Adam and you only debase yourself by implying that I’m stupid when you tell me to “please read instead of quoting Tucker or Kinsella”... yet I’ve “read” neither and I don’t believe everything I read either…

But I do have a whole bookshelf stacked with stuff that I’ve read and I would be happy to share with you… but I won’t because you seem closed minded and irrational so I won’t waste anymore time with the likes of you.

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By drklassen, February 6, 2009 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

WriterOnTheStorm: So-called “intellectual property” is a myth created by the major content cartels.  You have an idea, you create an expression of that idea in a fixed form and the Constitution claims you should have, for a *limited* time, the sole right to create and distribute copies of the that particular expression.  If someone else distributes one without your permission, that’s copyright infringement—not theft.  Nothing was taken, only right rights abrogated in that single instance.

Don’t get me wrong, infringement is a crime and should be punished.  But don’t tell me anything was stolen.

Of course, the right, as per the Constitution, should go back to being limited in time.  Lifetime+90 years is simply not a limited time in any realistic sense.  As all ideas are birthed from the pubic domain and society at large, they should go back there well before the generation that inspired them is dead.  20 years sounds about right.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, February 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

DRKLASSEN writes “Oh, and to equate copyright infringement with theft is the height of ignorance or outright falsehood—-take your pick.  If my wheels are taken from my car it stops working.  If someone retells a story or joke I created, I still have it and can still share it or sell it. ”

This is exactly the problem. Some people simply can’t understand that theft is theft. Wether the product of one’s labor is a physical object, or an intellectual property. Digital theft can be worse because not only is the property itself stolen, but the means of mass producing and distributing it are cheap and readily available—amounting to a sort of wholesale robbery.

It is interesting to note the rationalizations that appear in these debates. They often come down to an arbitrary reassessment of the damage that’s been done (i.e. it’s a victimless crime) or a latent resentment/hostility against artists.

One wonders how these same folks would feel if pharmaceutical companies stopped developing new drugs because cheap knockoffs had completely stymied their profit potential…

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By drklassen, February 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is a place for copyright—-as pointed out in the article, when applied correctly it does serve to stimulate and promote creativity.  But copyright monopoly is absurd.  I find it ironic that Disney built an empire by re-imagining stories in the public domain, then walled off everything they created from ever entering that same public domain.

Simply put, copyright MUST expire.  Give it 20 years, like a patent.

Oh, and to equate copyright infringement with theft is the height of ignorance or outright falsehood—-take your pick.  If my wheels are taken from my car it stops working.  If someone retells a story or joke I created, I still have it and can still share it or sell it.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, February 4, 2009 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Henry09,

I agree, the analogy doesn’t hold up logically. My intent was to underscore the moral principals involved, not the technical ones. But the logic of the analogy doesn’t break down where you claim it does.

Your assertion that “nobody is going to copy and file share a creative work unless it’s already sold at least a fair amount of copies”  strikes me as unsubstantiated. It seems to be taking the remnants of a declining economic model, in which companies profit by packaging and selling creative work, and grafting the rules of that model onto an emerging model in which creative work is rendered considerably less valuable by cut-and-paste technology, and digital theft.

Today, a digital copy of nearly every major release film can be found on web weeks or even months before the film is released and the producer has seen a nickel. Many musicians are opting for a digital rollout of their newest works. Bootlegs of software are on the peer-to-peers within days of their release - still well within the window of what I think you mean by first run. Anyone could lay their hands on a copy, and use it as they choose.

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By Adam, February 3, 2009 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bill90, nothing is plain sillier than the idea that somehow I would make money by giving stuff away for free. As a business model this may work for spoilt kids in college but for a guy supporting himself in a foriegn land it just doesn’t work like that, unless you consider starvation as part of the “job”?

“doesn’t have much of a market”. Ha! Says you but my biggest rival is making over $18,000 a month, because he is in the No1 position. To beat him I have to work hard, very hard, as I’m in at around 4 to 5.

That’s the nature of this business and music too. You win or lose, make big or make nothing. It is NOT some kind of job with a salary and just like I already told you, if you were listening but you were not because you put your bias blinkers on, “most businesses fail”. I’ll repeat that, most businesses fail, I did not say “Most businesses succeed and even they fail they would succeed by producing products for free” now did I?

Please, read instead of quoting Tucker or Kinsella or someone.

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By Henry09, February 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

WritersOnTheStorm -

Some good creative fiction there. I enjoyed reading it. But your analogy doesn’t work.

You’re equaling physical property rights with “intellectual” property rights. You’re saying that an idea should have the same protection as a car or house.

Nobody is advocating plagiarism.

But the problem with your analogy is that you can’t sell first run copies of your car, but you can with creative work like books or music.

And nobody is going to copy and file share a creative work unless it’s already sold at least a fair amount of copies, making the original producer money.

That said, Adam…

By your own admission your software doesn’t have much of a market. So if I were you I would worry more about growing your business before worrying about others copying something that isn’t yet very popular.

And that’s why you would still produce it even if IP law were more lenient, because you’ll have control of at least the first run of the product.

And who knows? You may even discover that giving some things away for free and creating an open-source environment would be good for your business. After all, Linus Torvalds is a millionaire.

But, if patent and copyright IP hysteria leads to KGB style Internet policing (see HADOPI)... then we can expect creativity and tech innovation to slow to a crawl at the expense of economic opportunity for the many, to the benefit of only a few, and at enormous social cost. Maybe some people here don’t care about that but some liberals do.

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By Patrick Ross, February 3, 2009 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I found this an insightful and balanced review of Remix and it hit on all of the key issues in the digital debate over creators’ rights. I blogged on it here: http://blog.copyrightalliance.org/2009/02/copyright-and-remix/

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By jr., February 2, 2009 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment

Blackspeare,

My apologies, meant nothing personal, but was speaking in general. 

Policies that should be changed are the ones allowing artists to divert millions of dollars from royalties and bonuses into tax-deferrd investments; and, making them pay taxes on that income just as the common people’s salary.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, February 2, 2009 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment

I woke up this morning to find the front wheel of my car stolen. I called the police to report it, and this was my conversation:

Me: I’d like to report the theft of one of the wheels of my car.

Police: Well sir, the city has changed the law. I’m afraid it’s legal to take wheels now.

Me: Legal? To steal?

Police: Ever since they invented Quick Release© and those GPS wheel locators, we just couldn’t keep up with all the stolen wheel reports. The city counsel felt that it was simply in the public’s interest to legalize it rather than to criminalize all those criminals. You never know, maybe somebody had a better use for that wheel than you. That’s probably why they stole…uh, fairly used your wheel.

Me: But that was a custom design specifically for my car.

Police: Technically, if the wheel or tire was altered in any way, a scuff in the rubber, for example, we could never really prove that the wheel was yours anyway. It would be up to a judge to decide. And they usually like to help the wheel manufacturers, not the end users. You’re calling from a gaited community, I see. That means you probably only worked for ten minutes for that wheel. You shouldn’t be so greedy.

Me: But I spent twenty five years on the corporate merry-go-round to get to my position.

Police: I would suggest that in the future, you should try to be more prudent about investing your time and resources. Having those nice custom wheels just makes you a target. Nobody I know cares about having nice wheels anymore. In fact, the whole custom wheel business is pretty much dried up.

Me: I see. How do you suggest I get to work, then?

Police: On my GPS locator I can see that your neighbor three doors down has compatible wheels. If you’re going to be late for work, I’‘d say taking one of his wheels would constitute a fair use. You’ll need the latest version of Quick Release©.

Me: Isn’t that really expensive?

Police: You can get a bootleg for next to nothing,  but I wouldn’t buy one. It’s much easier to fair use your neighbors, two doors down. Have a good day.

©WriterOnTheStorm. Use by permission only.

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By Adam, February 1, 2009 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s a breath of fresh air to hear defense of copyright instead of the usual whiny “I want it, can get it, will probably get away with it, thus I have some bizarre right to do so” crowd.

Time after time in such discussions I hear about people making millions but they are few and far between. Like any business, most fail, those that survive just get by for the most part and only a very small number go on to become rich.

It should also be understood that most overnight successes are actually the result of 10 years or more of hard work and learning to get there. Even the Beatles, look it up.

Myself I produce software, a consumer product that I’ve been working on for over 4 years, releasing newer better versions about once a year - but working on it most of that year. Am I “rich”? Hardly, in a good month I sell about 6 copies at $50 each, itself a great improvement over the earlier versions. I’m confident my next version will hit 10 sales a month or more, wippee. The version after that? That will probably become a fulltime income.

Sure, I’ll get “paid for doing nothing” AFTER years of development, building up customer rapport, spending every penny I make on marketing to start with etc etc etc.

Would I even BEGIN to work on this project or keep improving it if others could just copy it for nothing?

Take a wild running guess.

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By Henry09, February 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment

JR@

Most people do not advocate plagiarism or that artists do not deserve any payment at all for their work… if it sells. But what you’re advocating is intellectual monopoly and then asking government to sanction and then police for that monopoly. And that’s wrong.

I’m not calling you evil. I understand where you’re coming from. But there are many examples of how the ends don’t justify the means when it comes to current patent and copyright enforcement.

There is mounting evidence that show egregious manipulations of the patent and copyright laws are actually holding us back… technologically, economically, medically… there are many examples.

I recommend picking up a copy of “Against Intellectual Monopoly”.

Even if you don’t agree with the legal recommendations presented in that book you’ll at least learn about the abuses of some patent or copyright holders and you’ll see the data that shows how it can do more social or economic harm than good. 

For example, it’s ridiculous that the Canadian government levies a tax on blank CD-Rs and CD-RWs and then redistributes that revenue to unknown “copyright holders” - probably music and film industry - to compensate them for the “presumed” copying of their material on to these discs. As of 2006, European countries have been considering similar legislation… I don’t know if they’ve moved forward with it or not. 

Things like that are an absurd redistribution scheme and tax on a general multi-use item that forces monopoly rents out of consumers (and most are honest) - so it’s really just coercion and corporate welfare.

That said, few people are going to copy or file share a song or movie unless it was already a hit or popular with a niche audience… which means it already sold a lot of copies.

It’s tyrannical to put someone in prison - under the guise of “artist protection” - only because they downloaded a song that already sold thousands or millions of copies.

Draconian patent and copyright enforcement has been a PR disaster for the music and movie industry. “Regulating the Internet” the same way TV or radio is regulated - simply to enforce more monopoly rents for the RIAA or MPAA - and consequently limiting the economic opportunities and free speech of others who don’t “pirate” would be an economic policy blunder of the worst kind and would continue the PR catastrophe for your industry.

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By Jan Whitaker, February 1, 2009 at 9:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why would an author who has spent many years researching and writing a book want to go through all that if they had to give up all rights in their creation—and any real or potential income—in five years’ time? Would an inventor do that with a patent? Would a hamburger franchiser give away franchises after five years?
People can do all the remixing they want as far as I’m concerned, and they can post it on their blog or on YouTube, but when they fail to credit the sources or begin to make money off of their remixes, they are legally (and ethically) obligated to cut the creator of the original work in on the deal.

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By Blackspeare, February 1, 2009 at 9:31 am Link to this comment

By jr., January 31 at 4:56 pm #

Why do I feel your comment was directed towards me?!  I never said people should not be rewarded for original work only that s copyright or license be limited to say five years with no extensions whatsoever.  That sounds fair to me.

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By jr., January 31, 2009 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment

There’s nothing wrong with receiving royalties, bonuses, or the like for a job well done.  Persons who want to work for nothing can work for their local burger king and do that.  The primary ones who are nay-sayers of copy-protection are none other than those so full of envy and jealousy of others and they know they’ll never have an original idea if their lives depended on it.  Regulating the internet like is done with the radio and television stations would be a good beginning to cut down on those that have no respect for others property.  Stealing others ideas, remixing without permission, etc., is not flattering, but downright disrespectful.  That’s the bottom line!

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By Ed Harges, January 31, 2009 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

re: By Blackspeare, January 31 at 9:49 am:


On the matter of royalties: I’ve never understood why painters don’t retain their “intellectual property” when they sell a painting.

I mean, if a painter, sells a painting for $100, and then the market improves dramatically, the person who owns that painting can turn around and sell it for thousands, not owing any of that profit to the person who created the work. If it’s fair to pay the composer every time money is made from the use of his music, why isn’t it fair to pay the painter something every time the painting is sold for a profit?

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By Blackspeare, January 31, 2009 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

This whole business is a fiasco built on archaic copyright and licensing laws that have created a source of never ending income through the concept of royalties and residuals.  The original intent of copyrights was to protect intellectual property from plagiarism when it took considerable time to create such works and not just a week or two!  It’s an example of good law gone bad.

In light of today’s information and communication technology, writers and composers can turn out works in days and for this should they receive a lifetime of residuals?  The prime example of this distortion is the late Merv Griffin, who in about 10 minutes composed the theme song for the game show, “Jeopardy.”  Every time that theme is played he received a royalty.  Even he couldn’t keep a straight face when he related, during an interview, that 10 minutes of work resulted in several million dollars of income over the years.  Perhaps his estate is now receiving those royalties.  Another good example is Jerry Seinfeld and he makes Griffin look like a poor boy!  No doubt he worked hard for 9 or 10 years, but should that entitle him to a lifetime of income for doing nothing.  He did get paid a pretty good salary during the show——-ain’t that enough?

Maybe it’s time we thought about “copy” protecting the consumer from greedy operators!

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By jr., January 31, 2009 at 5:13 am Link to this comment

In the early 70’s a group by the name The Atlantic Rythm Section released an album featuring a song by the name “I Am So Into You” which climbed to the top of the charts to the #1 spot and held there for a record number of weeks becoming a double platinum record.  What has not ever been released before now is that The Atlantic Rythm Section stole the music for that song “So Into You” from another, virtually unknown artist by the name of Roy Buchanan who not only wrote the music, but featured the work on his second album many years earlier.  Buchanan, not wanting to gain a reputation of suing people for wealth, didn’t pursue in a law suit. Unfortunately, Buchanan to this day has not ever been given His credit due for a work that is undeniably his.  That, and having seen the damage to the music business via bootlegging, and remixing, i think there should be some means for artists to protect their hard earned labor, otherwise, what’s the point, there is none.

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By CJ, January 30, 2009 at 11:19 pm Link to this comment

While Fischer asks the pertinent questions and makes a number of good points with reference to what Lessig claims, there is such as thing as making the simple more complicated. If I take a piece of an Andrew Wyeth painting and use it to make a different kind of statement in Photoshop (as I plan to do), does that violate copyright, even though Wyeth died two weeks ago? (Wife, Betsy and sons Jamie and Nick, no doubt continue to hold copyright, at least pending public domain.)

Degas mentioned that the best way to learn to paint was by copying past masters,  which meant—at bottom—also plagiarizing past masters.

What’s so new here?

Leaving aside whether a DJ’s playlist is on a par with Melville’s Moby Dick. Which it’s not to anyone with a smidgen of common aesthetic sensibility. Much here strikes me as of concern only to patent lawyers. More than of concern to any creating using previously extent work.

There is nothing new but for greater ease (made possible by computer software) with which any can mess with work made by originators.

I suppose that the matter of who owns what copyright can only be determined on a case-by-case basis by a jury in the event of litigation.

This has been the case for some long time, ever since the products of creativity were reduced to commodities—of a very special nature. Exchange value partly a function of “originality.” Unlike in the case of, say, underwear, which though slightly differing from manufacturer to manufacturer is pretty much the same across the laundry board.

I suppose some extremely complicated arrangement could be (must be?) devised (by lawyers) whereby the originator of thing gets a piece of action in the event user/creator of new thing incorporating originator’s original thing sells his thing. Ad nausea.

I suppose that will be necessary under circumstances wherein artists too need to make a living, such that the relatively minor “commodities” they produce are only means to making that living, unless like Wallace Stevens. Which, in my case, I am (by preference), usually glad for it given the nature of the art biz, complete with a host of middle-persons forever trying to get in on the action.

All of this is result of ongoing absurdity that is capitalism, whereby absolutely everything is reduced to commodity for sale.

I assume all know that building of Cathedrals of Europe were not-for-profit projects constructed by local and itinerant labor according to designs laid out by a very few architects, who though they no doubt got paid weren’t likely concerned if the other guys’ churches looked more or less like their own. As they stole from one another, whether flying buttress or gargoyle. (Feudalism was more sane, despite serfdom.)

Yes, “twin endeavors” is difficult road. Club is very small. Which doesn’t mean it mightn’t be larger without loss. Were more “arteests” a little less concerned for wealth by means commercialization of product, a little more concerned for making art. And then feeling a little flattered if/when another does something else with ones creation, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

The Internet HAS become route to one thing—our becoming even more ridiculous than before.

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By wolynski, January 30, 2009 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment

File sharing is the modern air play. What’s the difference between hearing it on the radio and downloading? Technology.

I believe that copyright should be abolished, except for author’s rights and even those should expire. How many more millions does Paul McCartney need? It’s just a means for media corporations to own and control the culture. As for the distortion of your work, sell your book to Hollywood and watch the distortion.

Going after private downloaders, who don’t resell the work, is ridiculous. If it’s not for profit, you haven’t broken any laws. The gravy train for endlessly repackaging the Rolling Stones in yet a new format has ended. As a teenager I spent all my pocket money making Mick Jagger rich - I already paid for the right to listen. As for Duffy - let the teenagers of today go see her shows and make her rich and I’ll stay home and download.

Thankfully, the situation where a handful of media giants own our entire culture is coming to an end. They didn’t create it, why are they making tons of money off other people’s work?

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By Henry09, January 30, 2009 at 6:36 pm Link to this comment

Some protection for the abstract idea is good property law. But copyright for the control of the reproduction of the idea is proving to be bad law that is costing us more than what it’s proponents gain either for themselves or society. Creative Commons is a positive step forward.

Also, there are big problems with patents in regards to agriculture, technology, and pharmaceuticals… and how some of the more egregious patents actually limit opportunity, innovation, and consumer health.

Another new book also worth the time is “Against Intellectual Monopoly” by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine (Cambridge University Press). Lessig gave it a testimonial printed on the back cover.

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By johnp, January 30, 2009 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

I am a musician/composer, and I believe in and use Creative Commons copyrights. I am also a member of and contribute to http://www.ccMixter.org, which is a CC associated remix site. Having said that…

One interesting discussion about remixing and copyright centers on just where the $$ should go if someone uses a sample. Basically, the way it’s set up is that the publisher of the song, as well as the record company who owns the copyright on the actual recording, get the money from somebody using their stuff (if they choose to go that route). This law never took into account digital sampling, and when it was applied, it made some pretty big issues over infringement, going so far to say just how much of a sample could be used before the sampling police arrived. When we look at the base of this, the idea that all the parts you hear are part of an arrangement that funnels $$ to a publisher and or/record company, it produces a few odd results. For example..one of the most used sampled “thefts” is the drum break from the James Brown tune “Funky Drummer” as played by the incomparable Clyde Stubblefield, who was in Brown’s band when it was recorded. So..who should get paid for the use of this sample? JB’s publishers? JB’s estate? JB’s record company? or..Clyde Stubblefield? I don’t know what his exact arrangement with JB or the record company was (I can guess though..work for hire, iow indentured servant), but I never hear about Clyde getting royalties for what he did. And he should, it’s his creation, his work.
Just another of the complicated issues that nobody ever saw coming when these laws were made.

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Russian Paul's avatar

By Russian Paul, January 30, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

As a young, starving musician, I believe that all music should be free, downloadable and shared. It’s unavoidable, and the most money has always been made through the playing of shows and the selling of merchandise. I think it’s telling that it’s always the Axl Roses or the Lars Ulrich’s of the world that demand full recompensation and punishment, even as they make millions.

As for “remixing,” I disagree it involves just as much creativity as writing an original piece. That’s boloney, but if permission is obtained, I don’t see a problem. If someone is trying to profit off a sample without permission, than I think the original composer should have every right to litigate. If the person isn’t making money from it, then there’s nothing to litigate.

The idea that simply downloading Axl Rose’s latest excrement could land you five years in prison is pretty disgusting. All music that isn’t completely underground can be found on the internet and downloaded, and that’s the way it should be as long as we have net neutrality.

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