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IP as culture

Nicole Aylwin at iposgoode suggests that we ought to consider “intellectual property” policy in terms of its effects on culture, rather than sticking solely within the “property” frame. Seems right to me.

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8 Responses to “IP as culture”

  1. Copyright is the privileging of printers with the public’s suspended right to copy. If one wants a policy that is kinder to people then one should consider IP law in terms of its effects on people and its objective of protecting of their rights, NOT on culture (and the suspension of people’s rights).

    It is this focus on culture or commoditised ‘content’ as being more important than the rights of the citizen that some might say got us into this mess in the first place. If people’s rights are protected, then they are at liberty to produce all the culture they want. Culture is a natural product of a civilised and emancipated people. You do not need to suspend people’s right to share and build upon published culture in order to encourage it. You only do that sort of thing if you want to reward printers for having printing presses (and to be able to control their monopoly as a quid pro quo).

    Put people before privilege.

    If people produce culture of commercial value then the market will arrive at a means of exchanging that labour for money, without any need to privilege its manufacturers or distributors with monopolies.

    So, let’s restore the citizens’ right to copy – a natural right that was constitutionally recognised in 1787 (and then suspended in 1790).

    Let’s abolish copyright.

  2. Here’s a link to an apposite cartoon tracing the path of reproduction technology from the preserve of printers to the pockets of the people: Remember when…. It also observes the elevation of commercial privilege above human rights.

  3. As an intellectual pursuit, I can support your idea of abolishing copyright laws, but on a practical level, I cannot.

    I am a storyteller and writer. I have a CD that has won a couple of awards and sold about 3000 copies–small pickings in the grand scheme. For each story and song on that product I sought copyright permission to use it. The authors and composers were paid small honoraria, a gesture of thanks. I work with many “starving artists.” The practice of seeking permission to reproduce “guarantees” the a small stipend for their creative work.

    I have a dear friend who is an amazing artist. She has an inoperable brain tumor. Her family hopes that her body of artwork will help sustain them financially AFTER she passes. If her work goes out into the culture, then any compensation to her family for her original and unique work is lost.

    If someone wants to use the pieces that I’ve written, they call or email me. I am acknowledged for my creative process. In a sea of anonymity it is reassuring to know that someone out there has recognized and given credit to the one tiny fish who first expressed an image, a particular sentence, a piece of music. If nothing else, those tiny glimmers of recognition afford the creators their moment of immortality.

    Finding ways to guarantee commercial value is critical to this discussion, but it goes beyond that. For me it goes to the heart of creation. Digging deeply into the origins of works does much to strengthen intellectual pursuit within the culture.

    Example: Yesterday I overheard a high school kid looking for the origins of a quote. His teacher told him to look online. He did, and found that Mark Twain had uttered these particular words. But upon further exploration, he found out that Shakespeare had said the same thing some 300 years earlier. Intellectual pursuit. Finding the foundations of culture. Now we know that Mark Twain read Shakespeare, and liked him enough to be quoted for quoting the bard!

    Go to the heart. Do your homework. Screw the multimedia corps who stifle the creative process, but don’t screw the artist who created the piece.

  4. As an intellectual pursuit, I can support your idea of abolishing copyright laws, but on a practical level, I cannot.

    I am a storyteller and writer. I have a CD that has won a couple of awards and sold about 3000 copies–small pickings in the grand scheme. For each story and song on that product I sought copyright permission to use it. The authors and composers were paid small honoraria, a gesture of thanks. I work with many “starving artists.” The practice of seeking permission to reproduce “guarantees” them a small stipend for their creative work.

    I have a dear friend who is an amazing artist. She has an inoperable brain tumor. Her family hopes that her body of artwork will help sustain them financially AFTER she passes. If her work goes out into the culture, then any compensation to her family for her original and unique work is lost.

    If someone wants to use the pieces that I’ve written, they call or email me. I am acknowledged for my creative process. In a sea of anonymity it is reassuring to know that someone out there has recognized and given credit to the one tiny fish who first expressed an image, a particular sentence, a piece of music. If nothing else, those tiny glimmers of recognition afford the creators their moment of immortality.

    Finding ways to guarantee commercial value is critical to this discussion, but it goes beyond that. For me it goes to the heart of creation. Digging deeply into the origins of works does much to strengthen intellectual pursuit within the culture.

    Example: Yesterday I overheard a high school kid looking for the origins of a quote. His teacher told him to look online. He did, and found that Mark Twain had uttered these particular words. But upon further exploration, he found out that Shakespeare had said the same thing some 300 years earlier. Intellectual pursuit. Finding the foundations of culture. Now we know that Mark Twain read Shakespeare, and liked him enough to be quoted for quoting the bard!

    Go to the heart. Do your homework. Screw the multimedia corps who stifle the creative process, but don’t screw the artist who created the piece.

  5. Good points. And that’s why I can’t support the idea of abolishing copyrights
    … and why I love the basic idea of Creative Commons: Giving people more options to define how they want to use their copyrights!

    Some people trust that they can get back enough even if they let their content free (be it for serendipitous contributions, selling of related services, products or something else) — and practice has proven many of these people to be right.

    But those that don’t want to trust this for a reason or other and those whose intellectual works are more difficult to let free without loosing all monetary rewards need to continue to have the possibility to retain full copyrights and continue as is.

  6. Jaako, I still think copyright term should be drastically cut. This is simply because I believe our culture will be much richer if things enter the public domain as quickly as possible (while still providing a sufficient economic incentive to creators). Further, I’d go back to not having copyright as a default; if you want to copyright something, you should have to take some positive but minimal step, such as filling out a form online.

  7. B.Z., I am arriving “at a means of exchanging that labour for money, without any need to privilege its manufacturers or distributors with monopolies”, just as a century ago people arrived at a means of farming cotton without the need to enslave people.

    No-one who makes a living from the suspension of others’ liberty will want to confront the ethics of their lucrative privilege, though they will happily focus on the prospect of hardship for all in a similar situation if such privilege is removed.

    It is a failure of imagination to conclude that without copyright’s notional ability to prevent copying it is impossible for authors, artists, and inventors to exchange their highly valuable work for the money of those who highly value it.

    I recognise that I’m not wrapping my prose in soft cushion here, but then I do not intend to address those with a fragile disposition. Copyright’s future is not to be rescued by any argument. It is Canute’s line in the sand now trampled into insignificance by the people who would assert their primordial right to cultural liberty. All we have left are the king’s men beating up kids and old ladies as part of a pyrrhic campaign to clear the beach and restore the sacred lines before the Nazca people forget what they’re for.

    As for evidence that I’m working on a plausible labour exchange mechanism, see my comments in this discussion with Doc Searls on his post about enabling people to pay for the production of the news they want (rather than about charging them to read each copy): PayChoice for Newspapers. And everything else that’s free.

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