Copyright 2011: Looking forward

Submitted by martha on December 30, 2010 – 5:27pm
The year ends much as it began with a sense that while everything has changed more stays the same. The debate around Bill C-32 continues – with little obvious progress from the outside looking in. Moore and Clement held a press conference where again the “iPod tax” was used to generate media and public attention. They claim they speak for consumers. Yet I have not met anyone who begrudges paying creators for their work – nor for that matter do the Consumers Association, PIAC and the Union des Consommateurs. Artists are also consumers and users of content. Perhaps the theory is that if the word is repeated often enough we the “public” will reject paying for creative work. Yet we do so in a policy vacuum – how do actually value creativity? And what do we mean by content? I have just finished reading a report about user generated content – one of the most striking things was the ease with which all “content” is somehow the same despite the fact that brand recognition and technical software services may not be of any interest to a multitude of creators in both the analogue and digital worlds. I also started watching the series of panels from Free Culture in Barcelona in November. Alan Toner pointed out that while Kickstarter may have generated 20 million dollars online crowdfinance that is a small fraction of what it takes to actually make films. Not all films are DIY projects. Some are, some aren’t. We can’t simply apply the model and expect it to work – we need a range of solutions to the finance puzzle and they need to be at some level tailored to the specific medium and specific normative practices within each one. Alan pointed out the value of retaining copyright for commcercial packages for broadcast. Clearly a more nuanced view that what I heard recently in Montreal. I am inspired by the way those who are most fluent in the net have harnessed the technology for so much public good. The Artefactica project was inspiring. Some of the rhetoric however missed the mark. I don’t know very many (any) musicians who make music and write songs to sell t-shirts. Indeed, they are routinely being expected to essentially assign those rights as well as any others to their labels or concert promoters (known as a 360 agreement). This it seems to me anyway is hardly progressive and a contribution to the public domain. Nor do I know very many people who make a living giving talks as Cory Doctorow has pointed out recently. Those who make money developing tools in an increasingly digital world play an important role in ensuring that we don’t forget that without some ability to buy paint, maintain a gallery space, care for a video archive, or plant the seeds of a garden our creative commons will be greatly diminished. I have also been reading William Patry’s Moral Panics. The power of language and metaphor to affect our thinking is clearly and coherently laid out with respect to copyright. We need to develop a way to communicate that does not disempower and undermine artists and each other as using words like pirate and tax clearly do. I started out this year committed to trying to bridge the communications gap. This blog and the work of the past year has I hope contributed to a better understanding of what we stand to gain by talking to each other.

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