Monday, April 03, 2006

copyright - system of fear

the little story of c and cc

once upon a time there were two friends, both artists: c and cc. c was always afraid that someone might still one of his brilliant ideas, while cc always talked about his projects and shared his ideas and thoughts.

one day c became so afraid that someone might steal his ideas that he decided that from now on no one should be allowed to mention his name without asking him first. at the time cc was so busy working on his latest project that he never found out about some other artists who had stolen a few of his ideas for their own little projects: cc never worried - he was busy creating.

a couple of years went by and there was a big exhibition with works from all important artists: everyone was there and cc was one of the stars - only one artist was missing: c. even though he had created some impressive art no one had invited him. and this was not because people did not like c's art, but because they did not even know about it! c had been forgotten over the years, forgotten because no one ever mentioned his name anymore - and this of course had happen because c once decided that no one should be allowed to mention his name without his permission.

c kept being afraid that others might steal his ideas, but for some strange reason - although c had some brilliant ideas - it just never happened...

copyright - system of fear

traditional copyright can be seen as a system of fear that the wealthy and powerful use in order to defend their positions or to justify immoral and often illegal business practices.

still: stealing someone else's creation is not the answer. but we have to define who the "pirates" are - who is stealing from whom. in this interview about his book "darknet - hollywood's war against the digital generation" jd lasica gives an interesting example: people always could quote from books (e.g.: when writing a letter, an article or giving a speech). but in times of drm, region codes and copyright paranoia we are told that we are not allowed to do this with audio-visual media, that this would not be "fair use".

so is not in fact the entertainment industry stealing, taking away rights from you and me...? aren't they the pirates...? organised pirates. maybe not quite as organised as this here suggests (note the date), still sometimes there seems to be some truth in this...

but there is a lot of good news, too. the creative commons concept introduced by lawrence lessig has established itself on the net as timely way of dealing with intellectual property. i highly recommend listening to this talk that lawrence lessig gave about the cc concept in 2002 (or listen/watch the "flash presentation"). there we learn that in 1929 walt disney "stole" (official wording from the walt disney corporation) buster keaton's "steamboat bill" character and created the-mouse-that-must-not-be-named (because they might sue me just for mentioning its name). what walt disney did was building upon someone else's work - a classic example of how creativity and innovation work! but today the m-mouse is still under copyright thanks to the "copyright term extension act" (also known as the "m**** mouse protection" act).

there is other good (or bad, depending from which side you look at this) news about our copyright (and of course patent laws) system: we are hurting ourselves with this really badly. innovation needs creativity. and fear is very bad for creativity. thus those who uphold the current copyright and patent laws system are belonging to a generation that is dying off because it means holding on to something that does not make sense any more (if it ever made any sense at all) in the digital/online world. letting go is often a good idea in life. and not only in a spiritual way, also in a material way:

just imagine what might happen if m$ was to open source window$ or if hollywood was to give away the right to remix new and old movies (for non-commercial purposes)...! an incredible wave of innovation would be the result: you'd see hundreds, if not thousands of mash-ups of hollywood movies online! new business ideas would be created out of this and innovation (including money and creative talent) would come back to hollywood: it would be such a smart business move, but it probably will not happen. and i'm sure that steve balmer of m$ would rather want to ridicule himself with throwing chairs at people all day long than seeing any good in open sourcing window$.

and while the american riaa files lawsuits against twelve year old girls and people who never even used a computer, others are busy innovating, building, creating the next big things...

but soon enough we will have immensely rich archives of audio, video, text and software created by artists, bloggers, podcasters, vloggers and communities of all sorts - licensed for sharing or even remixing. soon enough traditional media, music and video will become less and less interesting because it is not only so uninspired or manipulative, but because it is crippled with drm, region codes or sold with virus like rootkits - while people are threatened with ridiculous restrictions about the way they might be allowed to use what they paid for.

copyright is dead

"sCrAmBlEd?HaCkZ! is a Realtime-Mind-Music-Video-Re-De-Construction-Machine", says its creator on the official website. instead of explaining what this means i recommend watching the introduction video (via video bomb). sCrAmBlEd?HaCkZ! is truly revolutionary. it gives you an idea of the things to come: the future will be sampled, remixed and mashed-up - in real time!

traditional copyright is dead. and so will the m-mouse be if it is not set free to the public domain - where it belongs - at some point soon. and so will hollywood, m$ and the rest of them be if they don't make drastic changes to their business model. either way: something new is born: thunderbirds, firefoxes and penguins are rising from the aches of the old, common (creative) sense is powering the next generation of makers, entrepreneurs and idealists. the times they are a-changin'.


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