Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, November 12, 2004

Intellectual Property, Copyright And The Free Culture Movement: Action Is All We Need

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While the Creative Commons (CC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are doing a hell of a great job in trying to counterbalance the restrictive actions imposed and brought forward by the music and movie industries, very few young people are following or are even aware of the major issues concerning intellectual property, content sharing, distribution and copyright.

"Large copyright holders -- namely Hollywood studios and record companies -- are gaining veto power over technology at a time when digital technology and the internet allow more people than ever to film, record, edit and distribute their own movies and music, among other forms of expression."

And it is in response to this that "Students at a dozen colleges around the country have gotten together "to teach their peers about the consequences of overly broad copyright law, hoping to prevent creative freedom from being stifled."

"These students are forming Free Culture groups on university campuses to explain copyright law to fellow students. Stressing its importance for culture and society, the group says copyright law is being abused."

To make their points stick the groups promote re-mixing sessions, promote enthusiastically Open Source software and take direct action against US legislation which severely limits creative, educational and other non-commercial uses of copyrighted materials.

"If the technology is not locked down and the (copyright) laws don't stop us, we can build a democratic, free culture in which everyone can participate, in which you don't have to have the major backing of a studio to make a movie".

What is happening is that big media interests are encroaching on our individual abilities to leverage the full potential of this new communication, collaboration and sharing technologies.

Not only they are forcing draconian laws and policies to discourage people from sharing music they have legally bought, but are rapidly developing technologies that significantly limit our abilities to re-use such copyrighted content for the creation of new works, even for our own personal, private use.

Wayne State University law professor Jessica Litman, says that "historically, copyright law has been crafted by lobbyists for powerful copyright owners who represent the software, music and movie industries..."

The Creative Commons and other organizations have instead worked hard to simplify current content protection policies while creating new forms of intellectual property licenses that facilitate sharing, re-use and the creation of derivative works, while greatly easing the paperwork and the involvement of legal professionals into this.

These licenses allow other people to take a work and modify it however they like, as long as they respect the author's expressed clauses about possible re-use, credit, and commercial applications.

The important thing here, and this is why I am bringing this Wired news story to your attention, is that we need to take action. And these students are showing some of the ways we can replicate and extend their good efforts.

It is no use that we believe in great ideals like freedom of expression, personal liberties, free market exchanges when we don't even have the balls to stand up and move a finger to defend them.

This is no religious crusade. This is plain human intelligence at work.

The guys who have rightfully or unlawfully gained control of the marketplaces want to keep a tight, close hold on how the rules in these markets are played.

They rightly think they own these markets. And they have stated clearly that they are going to defend them with their teeth.

Now, who are these companies?

Aren't these made up of humans just like me and you?

Why have these people become so different from me and you and why are they getting so uptight about allowing us (and them) some creative and culturally boosting innovative use of the content they produce?

Because of the quantity of money and power this lands to them.

In their place, (think Hollywood people), would you act any differently from them?

If your status, cars, gorgeous villas and high-profile wardrobe all depended on you maintaining control of who gets to produce music, how much you charge for it, and how much control you impose to avoid smaller players to erode into your profits, would you let independent music producers have a way as they charge 1/4 of your price while producing as good content as yours?

You wouldn't.

If your distribution system was built on tight distribution agreements with major chains, stores, on top of long conquered and bought radio and TV stations, and on strong partnerships with print media giving lights and attention to your "stars", would you help P2P free file sharing applications or tools that facilitate easy exchange of content among individuals?

You wouldn't.

Especially if you also owned each and everyone of those companies.

But, as you take off for just a moment your consumer glasses, you can see that the laws and logic that best serve such industries and the people who own them, become all of sudden the invisible rules that determine the type of world, economics, and culture bred all around us.

And the culture that derives from this approach is one that knows gradually less, that has fewer and fewer choices (beautifully veiled as "hundreds" of different channels), and that looses progressively its ability to critically think, question, and come up with original viewpoints.

The system that rules the western countries is governed by the interests of the corporations that own those markets.

The governments of these countries put up a fa├žade of a democratic process while they are serving and promptly responding to the interests of these large economic forces.

Extended and uncontrolled use of copyright law, as it is being used today, is one of the exclusive invisible weapons at the disposal of these forces to maintain and increase their ability to maintain control (and profit) into their hands.

The moment you convince yourself that we can have wonderful lives as well, without having to create generational Michael Jacksons and multi-billion dollars movie productions that portray only war, violence and uninspiring love stories we can regain some real wealth and tangible freedom of expression.

The wind has changed, and if you have not noticed yet, I am just here to help you see it.

Individuals will be the performers of the near future.

They will not need to be Madonna or Robert de Niro to get a message across or to get a crazy audience after them.

Their audiences maybe much smaller than the followers of this past commercial artists, but they will be connected to them by much more profound links.

Everyone who has a voice and a meaningful message to get across will be able to make her life an ongoing performance: by writing, blogging, video reporting, interviewing, x-casting in real-time, sharing personal art and music creations and more.

These individuals will have their audiences, without needing to clutter up the walls of your city walls, newspapers and screens.

If you want to realize this future, early rather than late, it is time to look up at students initiative like this one, and encourage it.

It is also the time to use such initiatives as good reference models while helping other people find out why understanding copyright negative effects and fighting them with action, can indeed bring about a better world for all.

Reference: Wired News
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posted by Robin Good on Friday, November 12 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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