Copyright, Cory Doctorow and me

Submitted by martha on August 15, 2011 – 9:14am
Last week I was fortunate to find myself at SIGGRAPH and see Cory Doctorow’s keynote. (–izo) It was inspiring. To have him here in Vancouver as we make the final preparations for “Art, Revolution and Ownership” lit the fire under me to get writing again. Here are some excerpts of what he said:
Here in the digital age, we copy like we breathe, and so the stakes for getting the rules right on copyright have never been higher
So today, let’s get beyond “Copyright good/copyright bad” arguments and dig into the meatier questions:
“What do we want copyright to do, and which copyright will do that stuff?”
Let’s start with something everyone in this room should be able to agree with: copyright should serve as an incentive to creativity. A good copyright system results in more people making more creations. One of copyright’s most important goals is serving creators.
Cory (from my pov) demands that we differentiate the industry from creators and understand that what is being done under the guise of copyright does not serve creators. This should be obvious but for whatever reason the media often lump the industry together with artists suggesting that many creators agree with their views on drm when that is simply not the case. Many of the unions, guilds and association have disagreed with the industry position on some aspects of Bill C-32. They are lost in the copyright/left debate which rages in the blogosphere to little constructive effect. As I have said before, many creators feel shut out of the conversation because the system does not serve their interests.
Cory offers an eloquent and informed reminder on the need for us to develop better (more innovative?) ways to ensure remuneration for creators. “We need intermediaries who can provide the plumbing through which our works flow, because without them, we have to bear the costs of creation and distribution and most of us can’t do that.” What I take that to mean is that WE have the obligaton to work a little harder at answering the what do we want copyright to do question. In previous posts I have suggested making links to arts funding and other kinds of community driven mechanisms for support of creators. I have asked the librarians, educators and institutions I speak to to get involved with arts advocacy. I also advocate better informed folk about how licenses work (and don’t work) and spend a lot of time helping artists manage this complexity including sharing their content as openly as they want, at the sma e time as respecting their work, negotiate better deals and change the sometimes egregious terms of many contracts they are routinely asked to sign. It was inspring to hear Cory put all that into the context of what we are really doing with C-32 (and drm and privacy).
In an answer to a question from an audience member Cory also makes an eloquent argument for blanket licenses. It seems to me that too often we get bogged down in criticisms of our collective licensing systems with precious few alternatives on offer. This is not guaranteeing artists a living as some in the open access world have said to me (yes you David Eaves) this is about acknowledging the value of the work that we create and re-making the system in a way that genuinely serves creators. Bill C-32 does not do that. I fear that we in this country have spent the better part of the past 2 years having the wrong conversation. This was my sense after leaving Toronto in August 2009 and it sadly remains so today. I hope those of you who read this will join us in a different conversation on the 8th, 9th and 10th of September in Vancouver at #art_revolution. I hope you can join us at W2 on the 8th (check out the following week for more on the topic of surveillance), and the NFF.
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