Lawrence Lessig, the Internet’s favorite lawyer, gave a great talk at the OpenVideoAlliance webside chat on culture and creativity. You may have seen some of this before at his TED talk. He updates that talk and includes more commentary on the culture of creativity of today. You can catch it at blip.tv or watch below. It was is available on YouTube until it was taken down by with a DMCA notice. (Looks like YouTube’s copyright system took it down even though it was obviously fair use).
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This part of the documentary makes it’s argument clear. Intellectual property is out of control. I am sure the conservatives out there will probably have issue with many of the points made in this section. As a libertarian leaning Independent, I lean towards less corporate control over culture. I see too many negative side effects of tight control by a select few.
Placing patents on life. How has it come to this? We have swung way past a reasonable control structure and into the redonkulous. Patents should be granted only to human inventions, not discoveries. Existing living organisms – plants and animals as well as their genes – are no-one’s invention and should therefore never be patented and put under private control. Vast, unsubstantiated patent claims on DNA also deter scientists from research in areas that have already been claimed by big companies with large legal budgets. This isn’t capitalism. This is corporatism. Corporations should have no ownership over any part of my body. Yet, this is common practice.
The kids rapping really hit home with me. The learning activities they were participating in matches what we are now calling 21st Century Literacy. Learning through these methods help kids gain a sense of global literacy, problem solving, collaboration, innovation and creativity. An open culture of ideas only helps to support learning in an information economy.
The imagery of trademarked logos not being able to be photographed is a powerful one. We are not that far away from it becoming a reality. YouTube can already auto-disable your videos if it contains an infringing song. Adobe PhotoShop will not let you open an image of money for fear you will become a counterfeiter. If we continue on this path, what will become media produced by the masses.
Universal access to human knowledge. What could we accomplish?
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Don’t get me started on Lobbyists. You don’t want that rant.
Digital Rights Management doesn’t work. We have seen example after example of companies putting arbitrary restrictions on digital media only to have it thwarted. Take Apple iTunes. When Apple convinced the four major music labels (Sony BMG, Warner Music, Universal, and EMI) to sell music through the iTunes Music Store, one of the deal requirements was inclusion of some DRM on the songs. It prevented you from burning the song to a CD more than 10 times and only allowed the song to be played on no more than five computers. Eventually, in January Apple announced all songs on its store would be DRM free. Many believed this happened because of pressure from competitors who sold music DRM-free. Amazon.com had been selling DRM-free mp3 files for a year at that point. The fear of customers going else where was what made Apple accept a 3-tier pricing model the music labels wanted in return for the ability to sell DRM-free music.
Why would one care if their music had DRM? To me, it is a no brainer. Being limited to play something on only 5 devices is absolutely ridiculous. It is an arbitrary limit on something I bought and paid for. Enough said. If you want to learn more about DRM and the negative consequences around it you should head over to defectivebydesign.org.
What burns my biscuit more than anything is the fear mongering and scare tactics by the RIAA, MPAA, and the music industry. The guy in the suit wasn’t talking to the kids as much as he was scolding and accosting. This is all to common in the so called war on piracy. Instead of finding solutions to the issue, the reaction has been to sue the pants off of customers. No wonder CD sales have plummeted in recent years. I don’t react well when someone tries to restrict my freedom and tells me to like. I react even worse when they try to push this nonsense on children and automatically treat them like criminals.
Merriam-Webster online defines extortion as the act or practice of extorting [to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power] especially money or other property. This is exactly what the RIAA is doing to its customers. The woman in this clip is one of the few who have tried to stand up to the RIAA. She is a brave soul and unfortunately not the norm.
The University of Maine is currently in the practice of handing names over to the RIAA when they say that illegal file sharing is taking place on a particular IP address. While I will hold judgement on this practice, I can certainly tell you that there are many students facing this possible breach of privacy. Many of my students talk about their experiences with the RIAA. I had one student who was sued for $400,000. She reported the RIAA didn’t even try to push the lawsuit to court. They only asked for a $8,000 settlement. One that her family had to pay or else face an even more expensive lawsuit. If that sounds extreme, you would be correct. Unfortunatley it has been common practice. Are these actions realy justified?
I call BS. If your BS meter isn’t going off, here are a few other tidbits for you.
- There is a $2 surchage on CD burners that goes to the RIAA
- The RIAA collects a 2% levy on blank CDs.
- The average monetary value of a song on a CD is 70 cents. The average awarded to the RIAA in compensatory damage for a song is $750, but have gone as high as $9,250.
- If you post a video of your child dancing to the radio, you are in breach of copyright.
“Technology giveth, technology taketh away.” I love that.
This is part 8 of 13 of my reaction to RIP: A remix Manifesto. You can find previous posts here: Part 0, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. This reaction series wasn’t going to take this long. Life is crazy like that. I will see if I can get through the rest soon. Here is part 8.
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It all comes back to Mickey Mouse. I have always found it very interesting how Walt Disney used previous public domain works and then turned into a litigious monster. This snippet doesn’t do Disney’s hold over the copyright system justice. Monica Mazzitelli does it a bit better in The Disney Trap: How Copyright Steals our Stories. Stick with it, you may miss the sarcasm in the thick of Italian accents.
I think the best video I have found about Disney and Copyright has to be by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University. He created a humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms. Enjoy.
Not much else to react to in this bit of Remix. One lasting question: Is there a good reason for copyright to last 70 years after death?
This weekend I finally started Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. It is a great look into our copyright laws and ideas to make it reasonable again in the world of “read/write” culture. I am not that far into it, but I had to share a great quote on page 79. He is discussing Japanese children and how their media culture encourages kids to engage in recombinant and user-driven content at a very early age. Here he compares with US culture:
American kids have it different. The focus is not: “Here’s something, do something with it.” The focus is instead: “Here’s something, buy it.” “The U.S. has a stronger cultural investment in the idea of childhood innocence,” Ito explains, “and it also has a more protectionist view with respect to media content.” And this “protectionism” extends into schooling as well.” “Entertainment” is separate from “education.” So any skill learned in this “remix culture” is “constructed oppositionally to academic achievement.” Thus, while “remix culture” flourishes with adult-oriented media in the United States, “there’s still a lot of resistance to media that are coded as children’s media being really fully [integrated] into that space.”
I am still letting that sink in. Are our students passive consumers of knowledge as he suggests? Part of me wants to think that is the traditional approach to education in a nutshell. It seems things are changing though. MLTI has brought so many different creative possibilities to the learning process of Maine kids. Now if we could just encourage the next step; creating a amenable legal environment that encouraged students to create new culture out of old. Yeah, I am talking to you congress.