remix world: towards a global digital commons cached version 22/04/2018 00:42:54 en Art under control in North Korea <p>Nations have always requisitioned and utilized art works. If anything, this process proliferated in the 20th century, when art was widely adopted for propaganda purposes and those who produced it were strictly controlled by totalitarian states. It was the Soviet Union that initially kept the tightest control on cultural output and defined the needs of the state. </p> <p>In many ways, art for the state in Kim Il-song's North Korea followed on from and copied that of Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China, notably the development of Socialist Realist art. Many features of the organisation of artists and the works of art produced are similar, and can be seen as standard features of art in totalitarian societies. In most circumstances, art for the state can be characterised as being essentially large-scale, dramatic and message-laden.</p> <p>According to the official account, from the 1960s onwards, Socialist Realist art in North Korea took a new development and was independently guided by the philosophy of <em>Juche</em>. <em>Juche</em> was Kim Il-song's most important political idea, which he used to promote himself as leader of the North Korean people. <em>Juche</em> is usually translated as "self-reliance", although the academic <a href="" target="_blank">Dae-sook Suh</a> describes it in practise as "nothing more than xenophobic nationalism".</p><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>More articles in openDemocracy on North Korea:</b></p> <p>Kim Kook-Shin, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=862">Don't let a cloud stop the sunshine: the new president and the legacy of South&#150;North relations</a>" <br />(December 2002)</p> <p>Jasper Becker, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2686">A gulag with nukes: inside North Korea</a>" (July 2005)</p> <p> Hwang Sok-yong, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3129">The ghosts of North and South Korea</a>" <br />(December 2005)</p> <p> David Wall, "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3445">North Korea and the 'six-party talks': a road to nowhere</a>" (April 2006) </p> </div><p>Socialist Realism is now referred to in North Korea as <em>Juche</em> Realism. <em>Juche</em> art theorists in North Korea divide world art history into two kinds: "peoples' art", reflecting the needs of the masses, and "reactionary art", reflecting the ideology of the exploiting class. Kim Il-song's 1966 instruction, "Let's develop our National form with Socialist content", is still regarded as the absolute guiding principle of <em>Juche</em> art. This "call" for a new <em>Juche</em> Art was in fact a paraphrase of both Stalin and Mao. Stalin had defined Socialist Realism as "national in form, socialist in content", while Mao called it "national in form, new democratic in content".</p> <p>The "national form" of painting naturally meant traditional Korean ink painting or <em>Chosonhwa</em>, but oil painting (an imported western technique) was also encouraged. Large public wall paintings, which would normally be expected to be carried out in oils, were therefore also produced in ink painting, encouraging ink painters to paint realistically. Still today, there are many more ink painters classed as Merit Artists or Peoples' Artists than there are oil painters, as a matter of principle. </p> <p>The subjects originally required by <em>Juche</em> art were limited to such themes as: portraying the General, the relationship of the military and the people, the construction of socialism, National Pride and such like. However, in the 1970s landscape was also approved, when Kim Jong-il instructed: "The idea of describing Nature in a socialist country is to promote patriotism, heighten the national pride and confidence of the public in living in a socialist country." The result has been a huge increase in the production of oil paintings of natural scenes.</p> <p>All artists in North Korea are registered as members of the Korean Artists Federation and receive monthly salaries, for which they are expected to produce a certain number of works. Some artists work "on the spot", at factories or construction sites, whereas others go to an office. Both would be expected to work regular hours and have about two hours of study or discussion in the evenings with regular reports and evaluations. Abstract or conceptual art is forbidden and the subjects and themes of works of art are limited. </p> <p>There is no question of arranging a solo exhibition but there is a National Art Exhibition every year and an Industrial Art exhibition every two years. There is no museum or gallery of contemporary art and no private galleries, but modern art is included in the displays of the National Gallery "because past tradition is a process by which the present can be understood". However, most of the works on display are also the ones that appear in all the books on contemporary art &#150; there is no uncertainty as to which are the masterpieces. </p> <p>In fact, there is no uncertainty at all expressed in North Korean contemporary art, no individual hopes or expressions, no mystery. As Kim Jong-il said: "A picture must be painted in such a way that the viewer can understand its meaning. If the people who see a picture cannot grasp its meaning, no matter what a talented artist may have painted it, they cannot say it is a good picture."</p> <br /><p><em>Click on the image below to launch a slideshow from Jane Portal's book "Art Under Control in North Korea" (<a href="" target="_blank">Reaktion Books, May 2005</a>):</em></p> <p><a href=""><img src="" alt="Art under control in North Korea" border="0" /></a></p> </div> Culture arts & cultures asia & pacific remix world: towards a global digital commons Jane Portal Original Copyright Tue, 27 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Jane Portal 3690 at What moves a movement? <p> How do you move a movement? The question lingers in my mind after three days here at the iSummit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, because behind the energy and excitement of the Creative Commoners gathered in their hundreds in Copacabana to share experiences of the free culture sphere, a niggling uncertainty persists. </p> <p> Three days before the summit began, <a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a>, the organisation behind the suite of legal licences revolutionising copyright on the net, announced they had teamed up with a company that many in the movement view with deep mistrust, Microsoft, to produce a tool embedded in Microsoft&#39;s Office suite allowing users to attach Creative Commons licences to files created in Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Although the collaboration was relatively small, the ideological significance, to some, seems great. </p> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote"> <p> <strong>Becky Hogge is <strong>openDemocracy&#39;s</strong> Technology Director and Technology Commissioning Editor</strong> </p> <p> <strong>Click <a href="/columns/virtual_reality.jsp">here</a> for a selection of Becky Hogge&#39;s articles from her &quot;Virtual reality&quot; column</strong> </p> </div> <p> Creative Commons licences allow authors to release their works &quot;some rights reserved&quot;, selectively asserting the different rights that are established by copyright law, such as distribution, attribution and the right to produce derivative works, and releasing the rest to the &quot;network of ends&quot;. Their inspiration is the Free Software or &quot;copyleft&quot; licence, the <a href="" target="_blank">GNU</a> General Public Licence, which is used in free and open source software and allows programmers to read, adapt and release new versions of a computer program&#39;s source code. Indeed, many of Creative Commons&#39; thousands of supporters around the world came to that movement already supporters of free software. </p> <p> By contrast, Microsoft&#39;s code is proprietary, meaning programmers have to take it or leave it. Most choose the latter, opting for the open source operating system <a href="" target="_blank">Linux</a>, which, thanks to the sheer numbers of talented coders who scrutinise it, is accepted as being more reliable by those with the technical literacy to employ it. Every movement needs an enemy, and for the free software movement that enemy is Microsoft. </p> <p> <a href="" target="_blank">Lawrence Lessig</a>, whose involvement in the Creative Commons project over its four year history has been characterised as a cult of personality, announced he was &quot;incredibly excited&quot; by Creative Commons&#39; collaboration with Microsoft. Gilberto Gil, Brazil&#39;s Minister of Culture and a major political figure behind the CC scheme, found it &quot;thrilling&quot;. But unsurprisingly, others further down the information chain were less than delighted. </p> <p> A movement has been chilled by less. The very spread of the Creative Commons movement, initiated by licences that are now in use in their hundreds of millions, makes its future unclear. Indeed its own momentum is what has brought Microsoft on board: Creative Commons could not pick and choose who uses its licences along ideological grounds even if it wanted to, they are tools made available to all. As the popularity of the licences grows, they are sure to be embraced by organisations that are less than attractive to the early adopters. </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote"> <p> This article is part of a <a href="/debates/issue.jsp?debateId=139&amp;id=1">debate</a> exploring global digital commons and culture. For more information on the commons movement, see the <a href="" target="_blank">iCommons</a> website. </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> Join the debate in the openDemocracy <a href="/forums/thread.jspa?forumID=197&amp;threadID=46774">forums</a>: &quot;Do you remix?&quot; </p> </div> <p> Creative Commons saw this trend coming more than a year ago, and have since been attempting to counter its negative effects on the free culture enthusiasts who form the core of the movement. To this end, they have established a new arm, the iCommons. Fronted first by Paula le Dieu, the former director of the BBC&#39;s Creative Commons-inspired <a href=",1412,67239,00.html" target="_blank">Creative Archive</a>, and now by Heather Ford, who helped bring Creative Commons to South Africa, the iCommons aims to incubate and connect projects that are working towards a global digital commons. Because it is less concerned with legal code that is available to all and more connected with common practice, the iCommons is the perfect altar at which free software and free culture pioneers may lay their aspirations for the movement. But will they? </p> <p> For many, the message behind iCommons isn&#39;t clear. When this was put to Lawrence Lessig in the final session of the <a href="" target="_blank">conference</a> here in Rio last weekend, he was adamant it didn&#39;t need to be. Creative Commons does not tell you how you should be free, he countered, it provides you with tools, real things, which let you achieve the freedoms you believe in, and iCommons will be the same. But no matter what the Creative Commons board believes, their self-appointed advocates around the world were drawn to Creative Commons in part because of a perceived shared ideology. &quot;We need trust and faith in each other&quot;, counters Lessig, &quot;We need a recognition that we have a <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3668">common purpose</a>. Don&#39;t tell me that I need to tell you what that is, because we&#39;ll never agree, but we do have a common purpose.&quot; </p> <p> Tools, then, not ideology, spurred the spread of the Creative Commons movement, to the extent that the Rio summit attracted delegations from Australia, China, Croatia, Senegal. But the iCommons&#39; proposal for tools that &quot;incubate&quot; and &quot;connect&quot; projects gets too close to semantically bleached NGO doublespeak for the comfort of this writer. Creative Commons needs to invest as much time and money in iCommons as possible, to ensure that the tools and portals set to work on achieving these goals will be as intuitive, as inspirational and as downright cool as the licences were. </p> </div> Culture arts & cultures media & the net The Americas remix world: towards a global digital commons virtual reality Gil Becky Hogge Creative Commons normal Mon, 26 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Becky Hogge 3686 at Tropicalia and the quest for a cultural commons <p> The selection of Brazil as the host country for this year&#39;s <a href="" target="_blank">iCommons</a> summit comes as no surprise to followers of international machinations over Intellectual Property (<a href="" target="_blank">IP</a>). The country has recently emerged as one of the leading provocateurs in a global fraternity of developing nations that is challenging US and western assumptions about copyright, patents, trademarks – and cultural ownership. </p> <p> The <a href="" target="_blank">summit&#39;s</a> headlining guest is none other than <a href=",16559,1592359,00.html" target="_blank">Gilberto Gil</a>, Brazil&#39;s current Minister of Culture and vocal advocate of more open copyright systems and Creative Commons. In another lifetime, he was one of the founders of <em><a href="" target="_blank">Tropicalia</a></em>, a socio-musical movement which shone brightly – albeit briefly – in the 1960s before being brutally repressed by the <a href="" target="_blank">military dictatorship</a> of the day. </p> <p> Can any parallels – and lessons – be drawn with the Brazilian <em>Tropicalia</em> experience and the future of the cultural commons? </p> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote"> <p> <strong>This article is part of a <a href="/debates/issue.jsp?debateId=139&amp;id=1">debate</a> exploring global digital commons and culture. For more information on the commons movement, see the <a href="" target="_blank">iCommons</a> website.</strong> </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> <strong>Join the debate in the openDemocracy <a href="/forums/thread.jspa?forumID=197&amp;threadID=46774">forums</a>: &quot;Do you remix?&quot;</strong> </p> </div> <p> <strong><em>Tropicalia</em> in context</strong> </p> <p> Brazil has long been characterized as a &quot;hybrid nation&quot; – be it of peoples, languages, cultures, or even its straddling of &quot;developing&quot; and &quot;developed&quot;. In many ways, <em>Tropicalia</em> is emblematic of such a hybridic style. While the methods to mix and blend music may be new, the impulse is not, as <em>Tropicalia</em> demonstrates. Essentially, <em>Tropicalia</em> is &quot;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3659">remix</a>&quot;. </p> <p> From its very inception, the movement was characterized by hybridity and the cultural appropriation of old and foreign styles – or, as it is known in the Brazilian context, <em>antropofagia</em> or &quot;cannibalism&quot;, after modernist writer Oswald de Andrade&#39;s &quot;<a href=";cd_verbete=4110" target="_blank">Cannibalist Manifesto</a>&quot; which advanced a model for critically &quot;devouring&quot; cultural inflows from abroad. </p> <p> As a specific genre, it emerged from a concerted effort on the part of founders Gilberto Gil and <a href="" target="_blank">Caetano Veloso</a> to develop what they called the &quot;<a href="" target="_blank">universal sound</a>&quot;, which they performed during a televised music festival in 1967. The genre&#39;s emergence on television is important precisely because one of the conceptual planks of Tropicalia was not to reject mass media and then carve a space of resistance outside of it, but rather to try to blend with it, and to use it to one&#39;s advantage. </p> <p> There are payoffs here of course, but the point is not about the replacement of mass media (as feared by media conglomerates), but rather a &quot;<a href="" target="_blank">hybridization</a>&quot; of cultural spheres. Indeed, Gil and Veloso proposed their innovation as a claim of participation in an international modernity. </p> <p> The musicians who founded the <em>Tropicalia</em> movement and articulated its philosophy – principally Veloso, Gil, and <a href="" target="_blank">Tom Ze</a> all hailed from small towns in the <a href="" target="_blank">Bahia</a> region in the northeast of Brazil, the poorest area of the country (the exception being Sao Paulo rock band <em>Os Mutantes</em>). Bahia is the epicentre of Afro-Brazilian cultural life, the birthplace of the <em><a href="" target="_blank">Candomble</a></em> religion, the martial art <em><a href="" target="_blank">capoeira</a></em>, and the sounds of <em><a href="" target="_blank">samba</a></em>. </p> <p> The fact that such a pervasive cultural and political force as <em>Tropicalia</em> should emerge from an economically and nationally marginalized region hints at an appropriate parallel with Brazil&#39;s relatively newfound role in international <a href="" target="_blank">cultural</a> (and therefore, in a networked information economy, political) affairs <a href=";res=1024_ff&amp;print=0" target="_blank">in the face of north American dominance</a>. </p> <p> It is tempting to suggest that this dynamic is already grounded in Brazilian socio-cultural thinking, thanks to <a href="" target="_blank">Gilberto Freyre&#39;s</a> book <em>Casa-grande e Senzala</em>, which made the case for understanding social relations between &quot;the big house and the slave quarters&quot; as a transhistorical template for Brazilian <a href="" target="_blank">culture</a> and society. </p> <p> This begs certain questions: can the economic underdogs of the developing world genuinely locate culture as a site for progressive change? Is culture a channel they can have genuine leverage in – as New York University scholar George Yudice suggests, an <a href="" target="_blank">expedient resource</a>? These are intriguing queries, however one must be cautious about making overly ambitious claims for cultural movements. Another American academic Liv Sovik <a href="" target="_blank">points out</a> the comforting images offered by <em><a href="" target="_blank">Bossa Nova</a></em> of &quot;<em>o amor, o sorriso e a flor</em>&quot; (love, smiles and flowers) and &quot;<em>sal, sol, sul</em>&quot; (salt, sun, South) could not meet the challenge of tanks in the streets in 1964. </p> <p> <strong>A &quot;new language&quot;</strong> </p> <p> <em>Tropicalia</em> has had its share of <a href="" target="_blank">criticism</a>, principally on the grounds that its atemporal projection of Brazil negates any potential for social transformation, and that its open embrace of western rock music made it a disguise for cultural imperialism from the North. Such criticisms fail to recognise <em>Tropicalia</em>&#39;s artistic and theoretical practices as grounded in Brazilian cultural and historical specificities. </p> <p> This raises new questions: will actions taken by Brazil remain only significant to itself? Or, given its powerful position in Latin America and its <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1599">emerging</a> role as a powerbroker at World Intellectual Property Organization (<a href="" target="_blank">WIPO</a>) and the United Nations as a counterforce to American cultural and informational hegemony, does this remain the case? </p> <p> The critic Buarque de Hollanda saw in <em>Tropicalia</em> &quot;a new critical language&quot; that made interventions at the level of everyday behaviours. A new language is certainly needed in order that the importance of IP to development can find its way into the public sphere, and not remain a discourse exclusive to cultural industrialists, economists, lawyers and UN bureaucrats. </p> <p> This project is already underway, and on one level, can be seen through efforts of the <a href="" target="_blank">Free Culture</a> movement. Moreover, intervention at the level of everyday behaviours is one of the key discursive weapons of the IP &quot;<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3309">copyfight</a>&quot; movement: that everyday practices of reading, experiencing and commenting on cultural forms are becoming increasingly compromised by the aggressive march of propertisation. </p> <p> One of the key areas of tension in the current IP system is that of transnationalism, the negotiations over which is WIPO&#39;s <em>raison d&#39;etre</em>. In <em>Tropicalia</em>, the transnationality of pop music is something to be celebrated; its musicians liberally borrowed from Anglo-American rock, and caused controversy with their adoption of electric guitars and other instruments. To Veloso and Gil, the pop music industry was a space in which musicians could be active artists, and was not something to be avoided for its own sake. </p> <p> As in <em>Tropicalia</em>, there is an emergent blending of cultural and political demands for economic and policy autonomy on the part of dominated parties. During the 1960-70s, the relationship shared between culture and politics was essentially communicative, educational and in some instances counter-hegemonic – which is why the right-wing military government came to oppose the movement and exile Gil and Veloso. </p> <p> In today&#39;s context of <a href=";layout=html" target="_blank">global digital networks</a> that channel cultural works in real time and at zero marginal cost, culture and politics are even more thoroughly interpenetrated, and in fact may have collapsed into each other in the rise of the &quot;<a href="" target="_blank">network society</a>&quot;. To assert the absolute need to protect IP is now a function of US and EU trade policy, and defines the starting position for a new mode of engagement in the global community. </p> <p> Among the many parallels between <em>Tropicalia</em> and this new dynamic, one that stands out is the fact that Veloso and Gil managed to aggravate both the military right and intellectual left with their music: the former for subversion and the latter for embracing hegemonic Anglo-American rock and pop. </p> <p> This is very similar to the blurred right/left lines in IP and copyright policy debates. It is an issue that produces strange ideological bedfellows, and a more helpful distinction is between &quot;thick&quot; and &quot;thin&quot; copyright as outlined by <a href="" target="_blank">Siva Vaidhyanathan</a>. This in turn reveals how the right/left binary becomes anachronistic in a world dominated by information flows. It also suggests the redundancy of those labels in a world of networked communication that in many ways is only tangentially subject to governmental and/or market interventions. </p> <p> <strong>Strange fruit</strong> </p> <p> The defining characteristics of <em>Tropicalia</em> are now in the ascendant in Brazil&#39;s dealings in international affairs. The gaining of the upper hand over more rigid, totalising systems backed by power of not just the state, but supranational organisations that supersede statehood. The leap is to suggest that Brazilian culture was already pre-disposed to such a formulation because of its history, ethnic makeup, and embrace (genuine or imagined) of mixture, which is now bearing actual political – and potentially economic – fruit. </p> <p> Can we also speculate that the west itself might be entering a <em>Tropicalia</em> stage of its own, given the increasing pervasiveness of hybrid cultural and social forms? Can cannibalistic hybridity as a social force help to bring about, in the medium to long term, an amelioration of the extremist totalistic forces currently manifest in US domestic politics, and the knock-on effects this has in the global political sphere? </p> <p> At the very least, we&#39;re going to hear some amazing music. It is especially tempting to explore such ideas just as Brazilian <a href="" target="_blank">sounds</a> find themselves on the rise in the highly hybridised global music scene. <a href="" target="_blank">Baile funk</a> from the Rio <em>favelas</em> has become the hot staple of cutting-edge dance music worldwide, and its stylizations have become popular in clubs throughout Europe, with growing interest in the US. The British-Sri Lankan artist <a href="" target="_blank">MIA</a> scored a hit record last year with <em><a href="" target="_blank">Arular</a></em>, the lead single from which makes liberal use of Baile funk horns and rhythms. </p> <p> The global flows of Brazilian sounds harmonise nicely with <em>Tropicalia</em>, and shine a light on potential rewards for a country that can exercise autonomy over its own IP systems. On the subject of the expediency of cannibalism, in his autobiography Veloso quotes the concrete poet <a href="" target="_blank">Haroldo de Campos</a> on the need… </p> <p> &quot;…to assimilate the foreign experience into the Brazilian species, and to reinvent it on our own terms, with the ineluctable local qualities that will endow the resulting product with an autonomous character and confer on it, in principle, functionality as a product for export.&quot; </p> </div> Culture arts & cultures media & the net remix world: towards a global digital commons Gil Sam Howard–Spink Creative Commons normal Thu, 22 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Sam Howard–Spink 3675 at The global digital commons and other unlikely tales <p>It is with some trepidation that I regard the forthcoming <a href= target=_blank>iCommons summit</a>, to be held in Rio de Janeiro on 23-25 June. One of the summit goals, as expressed by its title, is how to move "towards a global digital commons". Putting aside the breathless prescriptive language that assumes that a global commons would be an unmitigated good, it is interesting to ask what is it that the <a href= target=_blank>iCommons</a> is advocating when it calls for a <a href= target=_blank>Global Digital Commons</a>?</p> <p>There can be no doubt that supporters like <a href= target=_blank>James Boyle</a> and <a href= target=_blank>Lawrence Lessig</a> have correctly diagnosed a problem with the global corporate race to turn the cultural sphere into new forms of property. Boyle's idea of an "<a href= target=_blank>environmentalism</a>" &#150; which I understand as a form of political activism &#150; for the public domain is a possible solution. </p> <p>However, unlike Greenpeace for example, iCommons (a registered UK charity) seeks to build these new global structures of cultural sharing without wider debate or criticism. Instead it is busy writing national licences and patching them together into a global system that raises more questions than answers.</p> <p>And what is their justification? Well, it seems to be that the world needs more cultural "raw materials" set free from the constraints of copyright. But here the important questions are not asked: who will benefit from a global commons? Why is Creative Commons trying to build a global digital commons in the first place? What kind of notion of public are they implying by a commons? And given the nature and affiliations of Creative Commons, should we be suspicious? <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>Correction:</b></p> <p>This article originally characterised iCommons as "a private limited company based in London". Although this is a true statement under UK Company Law, it did not fairly reflect iCommons' charitable status and was therefore misleading. On 7 July 2006, the text was amended to characterise iCommons as "a registered UK charity".</p> <p>We thank Jimmy Wales, board member of iCommons, for pointing out the error."</p></div><p><b>The good ship commons</b></p> <p>iCommons is an offshoot of the Creative Commons (, an American non-profit organisation that aims to solve all our cultural remixing and reuse needs through "simple-to-use" legal devices called <em><a href= target=_blank>Creative Commons Licences</a></em>. Creative Commons laudably wishes to encourage the sharing and openness in wider culture that have <a href= target=_blank>typified</a> movements like the Free/Libre and <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3574">OpenSource</a> movements, who freely share computer code, expertise and knowledge across the internet.</p> <p>It aims to get lawyers out of the way of creativity, according to one of the founders, Lawrence Lessig, and in typically contradictory lawyerly fashion, it does this by making everyone use lawyer-created copyright licences to mark their work. And, to use that marked work, you are constrained in having to also license your own work under a Creative Commons license. </p> <p>Not content with this strange state of affairs, the Creative Commons is also aggressive in its attempt to expand the use of its licences <a href= target=_blank>worldwide</a>, with often overly defensive and uncritical supporters and some questionable <a href=,1284,67450,00.html target=_blank>partnerships</a> with PR corporations and big media. This unfortunately, and perhaps unfairly, sometimes makes Creative Commons look less like a civil society organisation and more like an expanding cult. But it is the appetite for global expansion that marks the Creative Commons (and through it the iCommons) as a particularly odd kind of non-profit.</p> <p>The iCommons itself is an organisation that has been founded to develop national Creative Commons licenses modelled on their American counterparts, which will eventually work easily with each other ("interoperate" in the jargon). In effect, building a new layer of cultural exchange on top of the private property system of copyright, but at a level which transcends any particular copyright regime, and offers a greater differentiation of usage by consumers of that culture. This includes the ability to remix it, modify, redistribute and in some cases even sell it (<a href= target=_blank>share alike licences</a>), but also more restrictively to constrain it, prevent modification and even limit how it might be used (non-derivative, sampling, and non-commercial licences). </p> <p>iCommons itself seems to have corporate blood bubbling through its veins, with its faintly environmental flower symbol, and the somewhat bland slogan "share the past, create the future". On their website they claim to want to build a "<a href= target=_blank>united global commons community</a>" through a number of free culture projects, but trawling through the mailing lists and looking at their board it is soon clear that this is a project heavily biased toward the Creative Commons way of doing things. </p> <p>Creative Commons might be fine for those that wish to share particular cultural artefacts in a particular setting (perhaps for musicians <a href= target=_blank>sharing samples</a> and so forth), but what concerns me is the question of whether the wider marking of culture through copyright or these licenses is symptomatic of a wider inability to respect or understand a notion of a public good?</p> <p><b>What's the agenda? </b></p> <p>It is the lack of engagement with this issue that makes Creative Commons appear disconnected, and in which it would much rather pretend that it is somehow apolitical and above the fray of debate. This is coupled with a curiously naïve technocratic cosmopolitan perspective that sees the erasure of national difference in cultural policy and protection as an unquestionably positive project (roughly translated as "national copyright" = bad / "global commons" = good). </p> <p>The Creative Commons project is a curiously inverted attempt to use a private property regime to reproduce a "common" (understood, for me at least, as a non-owned culturally shared space of culture, knowledge or ideas). Put another way, Creative Commons seems to be attempting to create a <a href= target=_blank>shared public resource</a> through a clever bit of tweaking of copyright, without the messy and difficult problems of educating citizens to the important of a public domain (or "common" good). </p> <p>It rather looks like a technocratic method of bypassing any of the needs of a "demos" (as a political community or people) that might through debate create such a structure, to the point of a <em>de facto</em> institutionalisation of a cultural sphere by a cultural illuminati (here represented by CC). </p> <p>In one way this raises questions about to what extent national states' sovereign control of their <a href= target=_blank>intellectual property</a> law can be transcended in this way. It raises important questions about how this project might be perceived as a threat to the national interest of any single state. Will governments be happy to watch their cultural products seep away into an American founded "common" or will they legislate to make Creative Commons type projects illegal or regulated? </p> <p>There may also be concern from a western perspective about the leaking out of protective national spheres of certain technologies and knowledges (issues raised by encryption software or <a href= target=_blank>GNU</a> /<a href= target=_blank>Linux</a> giving a technological boon to software development skills in China, for example). </p> <p>Lastly there is the important question of the way in which these licences might be used to actually perform national protectionist measures from outside competition, for example flooding the market with "free" Creative Commons versions of a product or using copyright licensing to set a boundary on its commercialisation.</p> <p>However a deeper question is the extent to which there is a lingering neoliberal agenda underlying the assumption that a "global common" would be that much better than nationally protected commons. Creative Commons is unusual in its apolitical stance, standing <em>for</em> a commons, but giving no reasons why it would be a good thing. </p> <p>Is it to reduce poverty? Is it to unite humankind in a spirit of enlightenment and mutual respect? Or is it to create a cultural sphere of spare parts and cultural objects to be "free" in theory but in fact channelled through the services of corporations that can mine the cultural detritus of a previous age to create the products and services of a post-<a href= target=_blank>fordist</a> future? </p> <p>We are never told. But the question remains over who are these "others" who will build new things. There is certainly no sense of citizenship, community or people (except for an inevitable online digerati slant to the discussions &#150; not exactly a universal notion). </p> <p><b>The cost of free culture</b></p> <p>Commentators and politicians tell us that we live in a world of globalisation, of smooth frictionless trading systems and global culture. Ours is a world where the protective and warm embrace of welfare systems, decent employment legislation and human rights are being swept away by the cruel hard logic of free markets, anti-terror legislation, and the needs of an information-based economy. </p> <p>The world today (we are informed) is an interconnected marketplace of ideas that is global and hyper-efficient. Corporations drone on endlessly about knowledge workers, the learning corporation, the protection of ideas and dangers of piracy, peer to peer and teenage downloaders. Politicians laud the "creative" worker-droids in what used to be called the cultural industries, but are now the newly respectable "creative industries". As we move into a new century, a bright future of universal creativity, lifelong learning and cultural abundance awaits us all.</p> <p>But, of course, this is a distorted image; it presents a world-view rather than empirical reality. It is a perspective that is coloured by the usual political imperatives of special interests. In this case a particularly Anglo-American capitalism that is connected to a political programme that is attempting to realign national economies from an industrial "fordist" model to a shiny new information-based economic system. </p> <p>Key to its success is the implementation of a number of important measures to enable intellectual labour to be turned into international trade, property rights and commodities. But most important is a world-wide intellectual property regime that allows the creation of markets which are enforceable across national boundaries &#150; what you might call a "global digital marketplace".</p> <p>So, what does all this mean in practice? Well, one doesn't need to be entirely suspicious of the motives of a "global digital commons" to note that some of the largest corporate supporters are the new <a href= target=_blank>Web 2.0</a> companies like Google, MySpace and Flickr (not to mention Microsoft). To fulfil the desires of their <a href= target=_blank>IPO</a> shareholders and the financial markets requires high returns through fast growth and commercialisation. </p> <p>The Web 2.0 business models are predominantly based on the idea of lots of people to placing their self-made content on shiny new Web 2.0 websites and licensing it entirely free of charge back to the corporations. Free labour and out of copyright material is by definition as cheap as it gets and brings with it a sometimes paying but always-advertised-to consumer of the "value-added" services the corporations supply with this "free stuff". </p> <p>This is, lets face it, the commercial exploitation of free culture and is as far away from the ideal of democratic sharing of knowledge and information as you can get.</p> <p>So what's in it for us? Along the way, Creative Commons has managed to lose any of the values that might have provided a lodestone for the global digital commons project (a criticism that cannot be made of the <a href= target=_blank>Free Software movement</a>, for example). There is little discussion about the wider ramifications of the move from a nationally bound public domain to a supranational arena and there is little debate about the dangers as well as the benefits. </p> <p>The project of free culture deserves support &#150; it has a commitment to open knowledge, the transferability of information goods between rich and poor countries and offers an alternative way of producing and organising culture. It also raises important questions about the wider commodification of our cultural sphere. </p> <p>iCommons and Creative Commons are flawed because they lack a concept of political economy. Instead of creating the flowering alternative cultural space envisioned by many, they run the risk of creating the conditions for a new wave of privatisation of culture. Indeed, one suspects that Creative Commons licences would have had to be invented by our Web 2.0 friends, if they didn't already exist. Except, perhaps that they might have named them Creative <i>Market</i> licences.</p> </div></p> Culture arts & cultures media & the net remix world: towards a global digital commons David M Berry Creative Commons normal Wed, 21 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 David M Berry 3668 at Education and development on the high seas of copyright infringement <blockquote>"If it is a sin for the poor to steal from the rich, it must be a much bigger sin for the rich to steal from the poor. Don't rich countries pirate poor countries' best scientists, engineers, doctors, nurses and programmers? When global corporations come to operate in the Philippines, don't they pirate the best people from local firms? If it is bad for poor countries like ours to pirate the intellectual property of rich countries, isn't it a lot worse for rich countries like the US to pirate our intellectuals? In fact, we are benign enough to take only a copy, leaving the original behind; rich countries are so greedy that they take away the originals, leaving nothing behind." </blockquote> <p><div align="right">&#150; Roberto Verzola, <em><a href= target=_blank>Pegging the World's Biggest</a></em></div></p> <p>The word 'piracy' is at the top of the agenda of many Western governments. In June 2005, for example, the European Communities <a href= target=_blank>circulated</a> a "Communication on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights" that emphasised "the worrying evolution of counterfeiting and piracy worldwide." A March 2006 follow-up document fretted that enforcement measures provided under the terms of the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property (TRIPS) were not having the desired results and needed to be improved through increased surveillance efforts by Interpol, customs authorities, and other agencies. Curbing "piracy" is rising up the agenda of some non-Western countries as well; in the latter case, their concerns are focusing on the "piracy" of the work of Western stars and sometimes the "piracy" is of the work of popular local artists. What are we to make of the so-called "pirating" of copyrighted products?<div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b><a href= target=_blank>The Copy South Research Group</a> was established in December 2004 as a loosely-affiliated global group of researchers who seek to research the inner workings of the international copyright system and its largely negative effects on the global south.</b></p> <p>The entire group first met together in August 2005 at the University of Kent in Canterbury, United Kingdom for a 'by invitation only' workshop. Its first output is the Copy/South Dossier, published in May 2006, from which this article is extracted.</p> <p>The full dossier is a must-read for anyone interested in the affect intellectual property law will have on development. It includes historical analysis of global trade and copyright law, as well as examples of cultural practice from the global south that presents alternative visions for cultural ownership.</p> <p>To read the full dossier, and find out more about Copy/South, click <a href= target=_blank>here</a> </p> </div><p>Before we get into the question, one initial matter needs to be cleared up. Is "piracy" the correct word to use to define this phenomenon? If not, why are the words "piracy" and "pirates" being used so widely by Western governments, large media corporations, the media itself, and others?</p> <p>To answer the second question first, we would do well to remember the words of noted African-American author Toni Morrison: "&#133;.definitions belong &#133; to the definers - not the defined." Calling people who use copyrighted works without the permission of their owners "pirates" is a crude, but often effective, rhetorical device to cast such people as simply the contemporary version of the robbers and thieves who raided ships at sea in the days of sail and made off with chests of gold and other booty. Indeed, today's digital <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3626">pirates</a> are now often mentioned in the same breath as those other contemporary bad guys: terrorists. One media sociologist has shown how, in the pre- and post-9/11 era, the activities of the terrorists, counterfeiters, and intellectual property "pirates" were (and are) regularly linked together in police statements. Sociologist <a href= target=_blank>Nitin Govil</a> gives numerous examples of such unproven claims, including New York City's Joint Terrorism Taskforce claiming "that profits from counterfeit T-shirt sales &#150; sold in the very shadows of the twin towers &#150; helped fund the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre", British detectives claiming that "Pakistani DVDs account for 40% of anti-piracy confiscations in the UK and that profits from pirated versions of <em>Love, Actually</em>, and <em>Master and Commander</em> funnel back to the coffers of Pakistan-based Al Qaeda operatives." Using the very language of piracy conjures images of sea-faring, blood-thirsty brigands, who terrorise the innocent and are devoid of moral scruples &#133; and links them to their supposed cousins who shoot down civilian airliners today."</p> <p>As for the answer to the first question, any serious student of copyright law knows copyright "piracy" does not involve theft or any type of stealing. It is, at worst, unauthorised borrowing, because the owner gets to keep the original work. In other words, "pirating" a CD has far different consequences than stealing a car. </p> <p><b>Copying as crime</b></p> <p> The criminalisation of copying and the war on "piracy" will be familiar to many people in Western countries. Breaches of copyright were once matters largely handled by specialists and lawyers, and of little interest to us in the wider public. However, in recent years we've seen a relentless shift in which copying has been demonised, and become targeted with ever tougher criminal penalties. Well known instances include the pursuit of those who use peer-to-peer (P2P) online file sharing networks such as <a href= target=_blank>Gnutella</a>. </p> <p>We have been treated to the sight of corporate legal machines and police raiding parties let loose upon teenagers who choose to share their favourite music or video games with their like-minded peers and friends. This criminalisation process has been helped along by a slew of legislative measures against copyright violation introduced by national governments and through international treaties and agreements, such as <a href= target=_blank>TRIPS</a> and the Council of Europe <a href= target=_blank>Convention on Cybercrime</a>.</p> <p> This criminalisation process has also taken shape through the appearance of a bewildering array of private bodies and interest groups, created by copyright-holding corporations, who have taken it upon themselves to act as both self-appointed police and <a href= target=_blank>moral educators</a>. They have unleashed a rhetorical onslaught aimed at curtailing copying by instilling fear and guilt: parents are told that their children need to be <a href= target=_blank>watched</a>, in case they turn into hardened criminals in the privacy of their bedrooms; copiers are dubbed "thieves", and consumers of copied material are accused of helping fund terrorism and organised crime. </p> <p>Copyright holding corporations and their apologists would probably respond that the kinds of criminalisation noted above are an unfortunate necessity, and will merely restrict consumers' access to leisure and entertainment if they are unwilling and unable to pay for it. From this viewpoint, limiting access to <em>Grand Theft Auto</em> video games or the latest <em>Coldplay</em> album hardly impinges upon individuals' fundamental rights or entitlements. The position around copying and criminalisation in the global south, however, is often very different. </p></div><div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>This article is part of a <a href="">debate</a> exploring global digital commons and culture. For more information on the commons movement, see the <a href= target=_blank>iCommons</a> website.</b></p> <p>Join the debate in the openDemocracy <a href="">forums</a>: "Do you remix?"</p> </div><p><b>The ramifications for the global south</b></p> <p>Consider one area in which the criminalisation process has gathered pace over the past few years, that of academic and educational publishing. Organisations such as the American Association of Publishers (<a href= target=_blank>AAP</a>), proudly advertise their successes in staging armed raids against copy shops in developing countries where textbooks and other materials are reproduced. Such raids have occurred in countries such as India, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brazil.</p> <p>For example, they <a href= target=_blank>report</a> with satisfaction that "the owner of Chamunda Photocopy Center was arrested on the 5 April, 2004 in Mumbai, and authorities seized 500 copies of medical books from the establishment". The AAP also recently wrote en masse to the Presidents of hundreds of South Korean and Malaysian universities, urging them to stop on-campus copying of textbooks and other educational materials, and including in their missive the reminder that "commercial" copyright violations can result in prison sentences of up to five years.</p> <p>Such custodial sentences have also become increasingly commonplace as legal institutions in developing countries are exposed to massive political pressures and their governments are threatened with trade sanctions and other penalties if they fail to uphold the copyrights of Western businesses. Things are obviously not moving fast or hard enough for the AAP, who <a href= target=_blank>lament</a> that "even in cases of conviction, the fines are too low and prison sentences are almost nonexistent".</p> <p>The onslaught of criminalisation is justified by claims that copying is "irreparably damaging the development and preservation of our literary talents and heritage." Setting aside the question of who, precisely, is meant by "our", that which is either repressed or denied by those who promote these antipiracy measures should be noted. According to the AAP's figures, the top ten countries for monetary losses to book piracy include Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia and Thailand.</p> <p>This should come as no surprise, since one important thing shared in common is, quite simply, that all these countries are poor and struggling to attain economic and social development. They do so under conditions of gross inequality in trade relations with the advanced industrial world.</p> <p>The struggle for <a href= target=_blank>development</a> and the lifting of large populations out of poverty has to be driven by investment in education and training. Lack of access to educational materials places a block on such countries' ability to educate and train their populations, with the consequence of blighting the life chances of millions. Without medical texts it is impossible to train doctors and nurses who can provide health care in parts of the world where disease and ill-health often reach epidemic proportions; without access to scientific journals and books, they cannot train a generation of engineers who could design and build networks of clean water, sanitation, safe housing, affordable and sustainable transportation, and so on.</p> <p>In short, what is lost to individuals and nations through the criminalisation of copying is nothing less than access to the means for living a safe, healthy and dignified life. It is worth remembering that the right to education is upheld by <a href= target=_blank>Article 26</a> of the UN's Universal Declaration on Human Rights. To deny access to the means of education through the criminalisation of copying is tantamount to denying this right, and the rights and benefits that flow from it, to all peoples of the global South. </p> </div></p> Culture arts & cultures media & the net remix world: towards a global digital commons Copy South Alan Story Colin Darch Debora Halbert Creative Commons normal Tue, 20 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Alan Story, Colin Darch, Copy South and Debora Halbert 3664 at Should artists know better? - the British copyright experience <blockquote> <em>Got myself a cryin', talkin', sleepin', walkin', livin' doll<br /> Got to do my best to please her just cos she's a livin' doll<br /> Got a rovin' eye and that is why she satisfies my soul<br /> Got the one and only walkin', talkin', livin' doll</em> </blockquote> <blockquote> &ndash; Cliff Richard's <em>Livin'Doll </em> topped the UK charts in the 1950s and again in the 1980s </blockquote> <blockquote> "I don't think Macca is a genius &ndash; Mozart was a genius. What he is, is one of the greatest composers of popular song of the 20th century, who wrote the glorious soundtrack to my, and millions of others, lives. I'm just sad on a personal level for him and his young child. Perhaps he married too quickly after Linda. I hope he finds happiness eventually. I suppose, after all &ndash; money 'can't buy you love'." </blockquote> <blockquote> &ndash; Paul McCartney fan-mail from Slovenia </blockquote> <p> &nbsp; </p> <div align="center"> * * * </div> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> What is an author? For science fiction writer and Creative Commons proponent Cory Doctorow, an author may be described as part of something bigger than himself: </p> <p> "Some other writers have decided that their readers are thieves and pirates, and they devote countless hours to systematically alienating their customers. These writers will go broke. Not me &ndash; I love you people. Copy the hell out of this thing." </p> <p> In Brazil too, Minister of Culture <a href="" target="_blank">Gilberto Gil</a> presides over a commitment to <a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a> described as a "tool for intellectual generosity", empowering creators and artists, if they so wish, to license their creations so that society as a whole is entitled to exercise some rights over their work. </p> <p> In April this year, <a href="" target="_blank">Cliff Richard</a> hit the headlines with his campaign to extend the number of years in which British performers can expect to receive royalties for their recordings. Under current <a href="" target="_blank">UK law</a>, songwriters obtain royalties for their work for their lifetime plus seventy years, whereas performers can only expect payment for fifty years. </p> <p> In the US, copyright was <a href="" target="_blank">extended</a> from fifty years to ninety-five years in 1998. According to Sir Cliff, unless this latest push to harmonise the copyright term upwards is successful, "The fact is &hellip; artists will not be able to afford to make an album." There is a strong sense here of what the culture owes to Cliff Richard, but no detectable sense of what he may owe to that culture. His creativity appears <em>ex nihilo</em>, and as such requires its due reward. </p> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="genuis" /><span class="image_caption"><em>Spot the genius: Mozart, Einstein, Paul McCartney and, Cliff Richard</em></span> </div> <p> The following month, <a href="" target="_blank">Sir Paul McCartney's</a> divorce lawyer, Alan Kaufman, predicted that Sir Paul's "widely acknowledged creative genius" would form the crux of any further legal argument in his forthcoming divorce settlement. Mr Kaufman described Sir Paul as having, "a very special position and his lawyers will be arguing very, very strongly he should be treated differently from most other husbands because here we have a man who incredibly has built up massive wealth because frankly he is a genius". Asked, "so what is 'genius'?", Kaufman replied, "It's always going to be a big argument. When you see it, you know it." </p> <p> The fierce debates about intellectual property that occur today revolve around a notion of the author as creator of a unique property which he owns by virtue of a singular imaginative act, somehow cut off from precursors, interlocutors, and intended or unintended recipients. The subject of copyright is essentially a crude caricature of a Romantic poet. Why is this the case? How has such a figure managed to maintain such a grip on the legislation? </p> <p> Rewind to 1709. A period (rather earlier than that of the Romantic poets) which saw the <a href="" target="_blank">Statute of Anne</a>, the beginnings of a national culture, and what <a href="" target="_blank">Jurgen Habermas</a> calls the "public sphere". </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote"> <p> <strong>This article is part of a <a href="/debates/issue.jsp?debateId=139&amp;id=1">debate</a> exploring global digital commons and culture. For more information on the commons movement, see the <a href="" target="_blank">iCommons</a> website.</strong> </p> <p> <strong>Join the debate in the openDemocracy <a href="/forums/thread.jspa?forumID=197&amp;threadID=46774">forums</a>: "Do you remix?"</strong> </p> </div> <p> <strong>A public is born</strong> </p> <p> The earliest British copyright laws, beginning with the statute decreed by government under the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor in 1557, were instruments of censorship. They granted the <a href="" target="_blank">Stationer's Company</a>, a guild of printers, a monopoly in legally produced books approved by the Crown. This legislation doffed its hat to the authors, but was in essence a compact between a government anxious to suppress dissent and a guild determined to retain control of the book trade. </p> <p> Despite constant lobbying by the Stationer's Company to keep their monopoly powers intact, the old <a href="" target="_blank">Licensing Act</a> expired in 1694. The Stationer's Company now found itself up against a formidable set of new opponents, a Whig oligarchy intent on erasing the special privileges and monopolies conferred by the crown, most of which had been abolished after the <a href="" target="_blank">Glorious Revolution</a>. </p> <p> If London was to be a new centre of civilisation, the anti-monopolists argued, an open government, a free press and active debate must ensure an unprecedented exchange of ideas. Artists and thinkers who had to submit to such a public tribunal would produce better works of art and ideas. Moreover, a book was not a thing, but 'an Assemblage of Ideas' which might be patented for a number of years like a mechanical invention, but could not be held permanently. </p> <p> The focus of attention was again an attempt at balance &ndash; this time the interests of a burgeoning bookprinting industry with these anti-monopoly concerns. The <a href="" target="_blank">1709 Copyright Act</a> was entitled, 'An Act for the Encouragement of Learning.' As an incentive to produce new works, it granted the author protection for fourteen years, and 'the classics' for a non-renewable twenty-one-year term. These time limits created the first legal notion of a '<a href="" target="_blank">public domain</a>' &ndash; a collection of works old enough to be considered outside the scope of the law, and under the control of the public and culture at large. </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="john vanbrugh" /><span class="image_caption"><em>John Vanbrugh, painted by Godfrey Kneller <br /> John Vanburgh, architect, dramatist and member of the Kit-Kat club, a powerful early 18th century group which set out to shape the arts through an elaborate web of influence and patronage, and create a newly refined and polite public.</em></span> </div> <p> The London booksellers were undeterred by the Statute of Anne. For the next sixty-five years they simply claimed that the author or his assignee had a <em>perpetual</em> copyright under common law. Those who violated it were threatened with suits in the <a href="" target="_blank">court of Chancery</a>. They used various other restrictive practises to shore up their control, but they also turned to the authors. Their most powerful ally was the great neo-classical poet, essayist, dictionary-compiler and critic, Dr.Johnson. </p> <p> <a href="" target="_blank">Samuel Johnson</a> &ndash; whose career could not have contrasted more strongly with that of a Romantic poet &ndash; came to London in 1737. A year later he wrote <em>London: a Poem, in Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal</em> and soon established himself as one of the leading literary figures of his time. In 1747 he published his <em><a href="" target="_blank">Plan</a></em> for the great <em>Dictionary of the English Language</em>. The <em><a href="" target="_blank">Dictionary</a></em>, which was to standardise and fix the best and most refined usage, pursued the practise of Greek and Latin lexicography by appending illustrative quotations drawn from a list of nine poets and twenty prose authors deemed by <a href="" target="_blank">Alexander Pope</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">William Warburton</a> to be authoritative. </p> <p> Johnson was steeped in an idiom which more than any other, knew what it was to "stand on the shoulders of Giants", and required that the reader knew this too. Before the digital age, it is hard to think of a culture more dependant on copying, for author, critic and reader alike. To be a deemed a gentleman or gentlewoman was the end, and emulation was the means. </p> <p> <strong>Between Restoration and Romanticism: a new "British heritage"</strong> </p> <p> At a time when direct patronage was being replaced by book-subscriptions and the making and breaking of literary reputations, it was vital for Johnson and his literary allies to appear amongst the foremost improvers in the moral improvement of the times. But still they struggled to overcome the prejudice against the squalid practise of writing for a living, and still they struggled to make a living. </p> <p> Concepts such as "natural genius", or the spontaneous stroke of invention totally beyond the reach of deliberate intention, method or rule, were profoundly uncongenial to the mainstream neo-classic view of art as a deliberate craft of ordering means to ends. But they were less antipathetic to a rising new audience of sentimental readers, including women, unversed in the classics, who were to bring about an important shift in taste. </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote"> <p> <strong>Rosemary Bechler's articles on openDemocracy include: <p> "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3628">A different shade of red in Nepal</a>" (June 2006) </p> <p> "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3317">Democracy, Islam and the politics of belonging</a>" <br /> (March 2006) </p> <p> "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2766">Nation as trauma, Zionism as question: Jacqueline Rose interviewed</a>" <br /> (August 2005) </p> <p> "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=2071">Rape and redemption in the west: Pedro Almod&oacute;var's <em>Talk to Her</em></a>" (September 2004) </p> <p> "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=1090">Beyond protest? </a>" (March 2003) </p> <p> "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=561">All our (Gothic) yesterdays &ndash; the really special relationship</a>" <br /> (April 2002) </p> <p> "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=424">The gulf between us</a>" (July 2001) </p> </strong> </p> </div> <p> In what some regarded as a fatal "dumbing down" of high culture, polite society was coming under attack from readers who were more ready to look within for sensibility and direct, empathetic feeling. Rustic simplicity, paving the way to the nature poetry of the <a href="" target="_blank">Romantics</a>, was counterposed to urban luxury and pretense. Against this background, Samuel Johnson and his literary allies now began to argue that what distinguished the true author was not the economic conditions in which he found himself, but the individual ingenuity and originality that the work displayed. </p> <p> To counteract the view that literary composition was a form of concept "assembly" which could be put together by paid hacks, they emphasised the importance of the author's unique "style and sentiment". Literary criticism turned its attention from assessing a work's conformity to a set of conventions and rules, to showing how each author shaped a particular work. </p> <p> Samuel Johnson led the way, arguing that a good author had a "stronger right of property than that of occupancy; a metaphysical right, a right as it were, of creation" &ndash; and followed this up with his great works of literary biography in the 1770s and 1780s, the <em><a href="" target="_blank">Lives of the Poets</a></em>. "Authors" from Shakespeare to <a href="" target="_blank">Samuel Richardson</a> were now pronounced to be original geniuses and children of nature. </p> <p> Enter the booksellers. Nothing could be more convenient to those who wanted the right to sell a work or to sell the right in perpetuity, than this emergence of the author as the creator of a unique property which he owned by virtue of a singular imaginative act. Literary arguments around originality of style and sentiment and creative genius reinforced the commercial claim for ownership. Such a property right, the booksellers argued, was perpetual. An author could sell it of course, and booksellers trade in it, but it could never be alienated from its source. </p> <p> But now the stage was set for a mighty partnership between authors and rights-holders which would make Johnson's Literary Club the most influential for the rest of the century, affording numerous opportunities for mutual profit and advantage for as long as they could keep the "<a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3664">pirates</a>" at bay. Together, they set about promoting a select pantheon of literary deities as a national heritage which they hoped would remain firmly in the booksellers' control. </p> <p> Literature, not for the last time in British history, in a sense, stood in for the rest of culture as pop music or football might today, and Johnson stood in for literature. But as we learn from Willliam St Clair's provocative outline of 'the History of the Book' in the John Coffin Memorial Lecture for 2005, they actually produced a smaller number of books at higher prices as the century progressed. </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="clarissa, adam smith" /><span class="image_caption"><em>Clarissa, Richardson's gothic heroine, and Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations</em></span> </div> <p> In 1774, however, perpetual copyright in England was finally declared invalid by the House of Lords. For a period, England now enjoyed the same "mixed system" of copyright confined to one generation which had prevailed in Scotland and Ireland since 1714. By the last quarter of the century Irish and Scottish booksellers, supported by provincial retailers, were sufficiently strong enough to undercut the London bookseller prices and open up the trade. </p> <p> Political economists led by <a href="" target="_blank">Adam Smith</a>, who were the beneficiaries of the Scottish "mixed system", successfully argued that perpetual copyright conflicted with a new public interest in the free circulation of knowledge, and information. Property acquired value not because it was a "thing" that was owned, but through its circulation and exchange in a system of commerce: not only the circulation of capital but also the circulating library. St Clair emphasises the scale and immediacy of the change in 1774: </p> <blockquote> "prices tumbled, production soared, and access widened&hellip; Defoe's <em><a href="" target="_blank">Robinson Crusoe</a></em> &hellip; sold more copies than it had in seventy years after it first appeared. More copies of Shakespeare were sold within twenty five years of 1774 than in the 150 years after the first collected edition&hellip;" </blockquote> <p> Britain's national heritage now spread itself far beyond the confines of the elite public who could afford access throughout most of the 18th century, taking along with it the seemingly unstoppable notion of British natural genius. This wider availability coincided with "the flourishing of the Scottish Enlightenment", and that other "read-write" cultural phenomenon, "the British Romantics". </p> <p> <strong>The return of culture</strong> </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="book stall" /><span class="image_caption"><em>London booksellers</em></span> </div> <p> Musing on the absolutist terminology of "property", "theft" and "the author as unique creator" which dominates intellectual property debates today &ndash; St Clair remarks trenchantly: "No one, whether author or intellectual property owner, can reasonably claim that any substantial text has been compiled solely from privately owned materials." </p> <p> To which we must add the rejoinder &ndash; least of all Samuel Johnson. There can be few men so centrally involved in a project far larger than themselves, so memorialised by lifetime of conversation &ndash; so dependent on the Ancients, on his fellow poets and critics, on a new industry, on the construction of a reading public, and the growing of a national culture. </p> <p> It seems a peculiar fate &ndash; that such a clubbable man, such a Londoner when London was <em>the</em> world city, should have been willing to disguise the project as an act of solitary self-expression. Yet we can easily see how the temptations of monopoly, whether in terms of power or profit, literary reputation or the financial independence that followed, were impossible to resist. </p> <p> On the one hand, the ownership claim conferred status and wealth, and on the other, it rendered opaque the mechanics of commerce and social control. In the name of "quality", it kept the reader (ostensibly the target of the whole endeavour) hostage to a "star system" which has lasted until the present day. And all this despite the fact that in the commercially produced mass popular culture of the 20th century, brand new forms of exclusion such as the barriers of production costs and production values have long since overtaken, if not entirely replaced, the iconic role of the work of art. </p> <p> This is not to diminish the extensive achievements of Johnson's life-work. It must be possible to demystify this "genius" without detracting from it. Yet to begin this process is to confront the paradox of his position. Johnson is never more innovative and inspired than when he is attentive to the constituency he was the first to name, "the common reader". </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="johnson" /><span class="image_caption"><em>The great man of letters: Samuel Johnson painted by Joshua Reynolds</em></span> </div> <p> Yet the sureness with which he located this heartbeat in the body politic owed nothing to lone genius and everything to inspired eighteenth century networking. And when he allowed himself to make his Faustian pact with the booksellers, it was this same "common touch" in all its diversity and creative potential, on which he also turned his back. </p> <p> This was not the last time that a great man has allowed himself to be mystified by his own genius. In less than a century, the same syndrome was again at work amongst the Romantics. The <a href="" target="_blank">Copyright Act of 1842</a> was instigated by <a href="" target="_blank">William Wordsworth</a>, and supported by Thomas Carlyle and the young Charles Dickens amongst others. </p> <p> Wordsworth would certainly not have wished to recognise Johnson as an antecedent, and yet, here was the poet, who more than any other of his time - as he wrote in the revolutionary 1805 preface to the Lyrical Ballads - inherited Johnson's mantle and found his inspiration in the "incidents and situations from common life". His poetry was an intimate transaction formed by a "man speaking to men". History had already moved on from the blissful dawn of the French Revolution when he wrote these words, and Wordsworth's political stance would change further. But even this does not fully explain the perversity of the 1842 commitment to copyright. </p> <p> Of the writers of their age, Wordsworth, Carlyle and Dickens were the most alert to the threat of commodification and the power of money to usurp, most committed to an artistry that can refresh perception and so keep open the possibilities of authentic exchange between human beings. Yet they too were willing in the end to bind their fates to the publishers' interest in the Romantic "star-system". And like Johnson, to a great extent they have been bequeathed to us detached from the explosion of cultural creativity in which they played a central role, in a stream of commodified authors and works. </p> <p> But there are small signs that the star-system may now be about to unravel. John Brewer, in his <a href="" target="_blank">introduction</a> to <em>The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century</em> (1997), wrote the following explanation of his task: </p> <blockquote> "I am examining writing, bookselling, publishing and reading rather than the genius of Johnson; exhibiting societies, academies, art dealers and collecting rather than the brilliance of Reynolds; and censorship, subsidies, theatres, audiences and actors rather than the talents of Garrick &hellip;. I am concerned less with the critical reputation conferred on them by posterity than with their part in creating the culture of their day." </blockquote> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="wordsworth" /><span class="image_caption">A brooding Wordsworth, painted by Benjamin Robert Haydon</span> </div> <p> More recently, in his remarkable overview of the entire "print era" from 1400 to 1900, <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period</a></em>, William St Clair has called for a political economy of reading. In an article in the <em>Times Literary Supplement</em> this May, he bemoans the fact that both literary and intellectual history, two of the disciplines that have traditionally attempted to trace the impact of culture on society, have been written in accordance with what he calls the "parade of authors" convention, </p> <blockquote> "The writings of the past are presented as a march past of great names, described from a commentator's box set high above the column &hellip; According to the parade convention, those texts which have later been judged to be the best of their age, or the most innovative in a wide sense, are believed to catch the essence, or some of the essence of the historical situation from which they came. It is a convention centred on newly written works that, for the most part, denies an active role to readers." </blockquote> <p> Instead, he suggests that in the <a href="/media-copyrightlaw/debate.jsp">digital age</a>, it would be a fairly simple task, "with modern technology and many hands contributing, worldwide" to place alongside the plentiful information we have about texts, such information as survives about production, prices, access and actual readerships over time &ndash; readerly access, readerly expectation, choice of reading, reception and what we know about the impact on past cultures. </p> <p> The project, he thinks, would fit well with other projects presently under way, such as putting texts online or collecting examples of historic reading. He concludes that "If we wish to improve our understanding of why, as societies, we have come to think the way we do, and to give ourselves, if we choose, a greater degree of freedom, we need a political economy of reading." </p> <p> It seems appropriate that the opening up of the cultural commons in the digital age should help us return those eager readers of the past to their cultures in the broadest sense, at the beginning of the modern era of copyright. Perhaps in exchange, their experience can liberate us, today's "end-users" at the beginning of the global read-write internet era, from whatever remains of the mystifying power of genius. </p> </div> Culture arts & cultures media & the net remix world: towards a global digital commons Gil Rosemary Bechler Creative Commons normal Tue, 20 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Rosemary Bechler 3667 at iCommons for beginners <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote"> <strong>Tony Curzon Price, Becky Hogge and Sam Howard Spink are <a href="/openblogs/blog/od/">blogging from the iCommons iSummit</a> in Rio this weekend, 23-25 June 2006</strong> </div> <p> <strong>Creative Commons</strong><br /><a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a> is an American charity founded by the radical libertarian legal scholar, <a href="" target="_blank">Lawrence Lessig</a>. Its aim is to help cultural creators give up some of their copyrights by creating the required legal framework of licenses. Why would a cultural creator do that? Because spreading a message, establishing and nourishing a reputation, having an audience, participating in the commonwealth of cultural production, may all be more important than the elusive royalty stream. </p> </div> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="creative commons logo" /></div> <p> <a href="" target="_blank">Business models</a> for Creative Commons are still in their infancy, but there are proofs by existence. For example, this page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No-Derivatives license (<a href="" target="_blank">ANoCNoD</a>). It allows anyone to copy this page for Non-Commercial purposes; it does not allow "derivatives" &ndash; or "remixes" &ndash; and it grants these rights as long as we continue to be attributed as authors. Without the Creative Commons license in place, our default copyright as authors would be much more restrictive. </p> <p> <strong>iCommons</strong><br /><a href="" target="_blank">iCommons</a> is an international organisation that has grown out of the Creative Commons movement. Its purpose, <a href="" target="_blank">according</a> to Lessig, goes "beyond the infrastructure that Creative Commons is building" and is about developing a "global commons". How this will be achieved is high on the <a href="" target="_blank">agenda</a> at this year's iSummit in Rio de Janeiro. </p> </div> <p> <strong>Remix</strong><br /> This is the practice of taking a song and casting it in a new genre &ndash; <a href="" target="_blank">negro-spiritual hymn</a> becomes thrash metal scream, Dread Zeppelin plays reggae versions of <em>Stairway to Heaven</em>... </p> <p> It's not just music. French dramatist Jean Racine is one of the great literary remixers; by taking Euripides' Hippolytus and turning it into his Ph&egrave;dre, he transforms a classical obsession with fate into a modern reflection on the conflict of duty and passion. Francis Bacon's <a href="" target="_blank">Triptychs</a> and Vikram Chandra's stories in <em>Love and Longing in Bombay</em> are also remixes, relying on our understanding of their predecessors for their full force. </p> <p> <strong>Mashup</strong><br /> In <a href="" target="_blank">pop culture</a>, a voice track is combined from one song with an instrument track from another to create a new (possibly aesthetic) third (see <a href="" target="_blank">Frank Zappa's Xenochronies</a>). In web culture, mashup is when the services from different internet sites are combined. For example, <a href="" target="_blank">dudewheresmyusedcar</a> allows me to find and map Aston Martins on auction in Silicon Valley by combining eBay auctions and Google maps. </p> <p> Other traditions have been "mashing-up" for a while: musical variations, like Rachmaninoff's <a href="" target="_blank">Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini</a>, Shakespeare's historical <a href="" target="_blank">borrowings</a>, James Joyce's knowing <a href="" target="_blank">parodies</a>, post modernists' clever architectural allusions. Fusion cooking &ndash; bangers and mash with coulis au curry &ndash; brings the mash-up full circle. </p> <div class="full_image"> <p> <img src="//" border="0" alt="book montage" width="555" /><br /><span class="image_caption"><em>Left to right: From Boccaccio's Decameron, to the Arabian Nights, to Vikram Chandra's classical-inspired Love and Longing in Bombay</em></span> </p> </div> <p> <strong>Wiki</strong><br /> From the Hawaiian <em>wiki wiki</em> (quick), this has come to mean a web page that can freely, easily and quickly be changed and edited by all comers. <a href="" target="_blank">Wikipedia</a>, the collaboratively created encyclopedia, is the most well-known example of a wiki. If the history of ideas is a conversation with the thinkers and authors who have preceded us, then the wiki is just a new support for it; the branching and revision histories are electronic traces of the complexities of the tree of human understanding. </p> <p> <strong>OpenSource</strong><br /> Computer code that is free from copyright or patent restrictions. Microsoft and Apple use all the tools of Intellectual Property protection to run their businesses: copyright stops software duplication, patent restricts competitors, and software is delivered in a humanly-unreadable form, adding Trade Secret to the battery of protection. The OpenSource movement aims to liberate software code from most of these restrictions and their effects. The amorphous movement has created a body of computer programs, some of which are now essential parts of the Internet's infrastructure. </p> <p> A lot of the work that goes into OpenSource is voluntary, though it does receive some academic or philanthropy-funding, and is also supported by companies such as IBM and Google. OpenSource is now enough of a threat to companies like Microsoft that Bill Gates felt obliged to try pushing some old Cold War patriotic buttons by lashing out at the "hippies and communists" the movement relies on. Microsoft has <a href="" target="_blank">encouraged companies</a> like SCO in their high-drama attempts to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over the commercial use of OpenSource code. </p> <div class="pull_quote_article"> <div class="pull_quote_image"> <img src="//" border="0" alt="richard stallman" /><span class="image_caption">Richard Stallman</span> </div> <p> If the charming <a href="" target="_blank">Linus Torvald</a>, creator of Linux (popular alternative to Windows) is the poster boy of OpenSource, then the austere Richard Stallman, through the <a href="" target="_blank">Free Software Foundation</a>, is high priest and philosophical guardian of the ideal of <a href="" target="_blank">Free Code</a>. </p> <p> <strong>GNU General Public License (GPL)</strong><br /> The GPL is the license under which much OpenSource code is distributed. It enshrines the idea that computer code, like speech, should be free to be copied, interpreted, modified and generally mashed-up. The license is <em>viral</em> in the sense that it requires any code based on GPL and distributed must itself also be GPL-licensed. </p> <p> Therefore, if a commercial project takes advantage of "free" GPL code &ndash; often an attractive and time-saving option for a company &ndash; then it will have to release modifications of the code under the GPL. </p> <p> For the curious, GNU stands for "GNU Not Unix". A computer programmers' joke (Richard Stallman's choice), it is a <a href="" target="_blank">recursive acronym</a> &ndash; of the type popularised by Douglas Hofstader in <a href="" target="_blank">Godel, Escher and Bach</a>. </p> <p> <strong>What has all this to do with <em>culture</em>? </strong> </p> <p> Calvinists in Geneva do not go to church on Sunday, they go to the "Cult": the place in which the community comes together to renew common understanding of all that is profoundly shared. Culture &ndash; our profound common understandings as a community &ndash; originates in the Cult, in the community and in sharing. </p> <p> The basic concepts of intellectual property law arose in the 18th century out of the technological and social individualisation of cultural production. The US Constitution enshrines both copyright and patent. The economic rationale is undeniable (the rapid development of an industry of creation) but today is increasingly at odds with the mashing traditions of cultural production. </p> <p> Digital copying has reduced the technological barriers to copyright infringement at precisely the time when the media and celebrity industries have sought to expand into the new global space of common understanding with films, music and games. </p> <p> The "Media Entertainment Complex" is militantly increasing the scope and duration of copyright and patent to such an extent that the normal methods and traditions of cultural production are threatened. The Disney Corporation, which has benefited hugely from remixing and mashing-up the folk tales of traditional cultures, is one of the most politically active in trying to stop anyone, ever, doing the same with its own cultural output. </p> <p> Intellectual property not only moulds culture, it is itself part of our culture, and we <em>can</em> change the rules. </p> </div> <div class="full_image"> <p> <img src="//" border="0" alt="odyssey" width="555" /><br /><span class="image_caption"><em>cultural odyssey: from Homer, to Derek Walcott, to Disney <br /> Left: Homer's Odyssey book cover / Centre: painting by <a href="" target="_blank">Derek Walcott</a> for Omeros / Right: Disney's Hercules</em></span> </p> </div> <p> </p><table border="0" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5" width="550" bgcolor="#e3f2f9"><tbody><tr><td> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> <a href="" target="_blank">iCommons</a> is an organisation that has grown out of the <a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons</a> movement. It aims to establish a global commons &ndash; a worldwide system that allows people to use the internet to collaborate and access knowledge without the restraints of traditional copyright law. </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> This year's iCommons summit entitled "Share the past, create the future" will take place on 23-25 June in Rio de Janeiro and will be <a href="" target="_blank">structured</a> around three major themes: </p> <ul><li>Tools. Developing effective, relevant tools to forward creativity and innovation.</li> <li>Policy. Strategies to ensure international, regional and local policy conducive to the development of the commons.</li> <li>Practice. Learning from the experience of others to develop effective models for open content worldwide. </li> </ul><p> &nbsp; </p> <p> Speakers at this year's summit include author <a href="" target="_blank">Lawrence Lessig</a>, internet entrepreneur <a href="" target="_blank">Joi Ito</a>, academic <a href="" target="_blank">James Boyle</a> and Wikipedia founder <a href="" target="_blank">Jimmy Wales</a>. </p> <p> &nbsp; </p> <p> For members of the iCommons board, click <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. </p> </td> </tr></tbody></table><p> &nbsp; </p> Culture remix world: towards a global digital commons media & the net arts & cultures Tony Curzon Price Creative Commons normal Mon, 19 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Tony Curzon Price 3659 at Free culture and the internet: a new semiotic democracy <p>Across the globe, from Peru to Croatia to Korea to South Africa, a new cultural space is emerging &#150; the digital commons. In it, users are creating culture and knowledge, be it by blogging, making videos, remixing songs, or writing software. While it may manifest itself in different ways in different places, this movement, much like the nature of the internet itself, has become a truly global one, and has served to transcend barriers across cultures.</p> <p>Many of these barriers are already breaking down &#150; the lines between "amateur" and "professional," and "user" and "creator" are becoming increasingly blurred. A little less than a year ago, I posted a mix of Brazilian Baile funk music on my blog. This style of music, while quite well known in Brazil, had just recently been getting a lot of attention in the US and Europe. As a result, it was picked up by various other blogs, and tens of thousands of downloads later, it had made its way into the best mixes of 2005 in one of the premiere electronic music magazines, <em><a href= target=_blank>The Wire</a></em>. In many ways for me, it was a lesson in semiotic democracy and the grassroots, viral nature of the internet. I had merely published something to my blog, and without any further effort on my part, people around the world started listening to my mix. I had become a part of the digital cultural revolution without even realising it. <div><div class="pull_quote_article"><p><b>This article is the first in a <a href="">series</a> exploring global digital commons and culture. For more information on the commons movement, see the <a href= target=_blank>iCommons</a> website.</b></p> <p>Join the debate in the openDemocracy <a href="">forums</a>: "Do you remix?" </p> </div><p>By posting my mix online and allowing others free access to it, I had entered the "cultural commons", or a common space of cultural information that is available for the public at large to share, rework, and remix. For example, old books or films (before 1923 in the US) where the copyright has expired and is now in the public domain as well as the massive amount of knowledge contained in <a href= target=_blank>Wikipedia</a>, the world's largest user-created encyclopedia, would be a part of this growing pool of global information. As opposed to opting for traditional copyright, which would lock down a work and prevent such access or reworking, creators may opt for various licenses, including those of Creative Commons, to add to this knowledge space. </p> <p>Brazil, despite its relatively strong copyright law on the books, has been a hotbed of commons-based activity in practice. The entire genre of <a href= target=_blank>Baile funk</a>, which has emerged from Brazil's ghetto-like <em>favelas</em> and has begun to pervade mainstream culture there, relies almost exclusively on remixing. Go to a Funk Ball, or Baile, in the <em>favela</em> of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, and you will likely recognize samples and snippets of a good amount of the music you hear &#150; from Prince to New Order to 50 Cent. </p> <p>What's more, the music is created without any regard to copyright, and this is what allows it to flourish. Artists freely borrow and remix from others, and CDs are sold on the streets for little more than the cost of the production of the physical CD. Artists don't receive royalties from the CDs, but instead view them as promotion of their work and their performances, and some of the parties that are organised attract tens of thousands of fans. Needless to say, these Bailes can be extremely lucrative for the funk artists. Brazil has also been extremely progressive in supporting open business models (or those that do not rely on restricting access to content or culture), has been active in patent-busting, and has generally viewed culture as a space to which citizens have a right to access, as opposed to a commodity to which consumers have a right to purchase.</p> <p><b>A creative revolution</b></p> <p>What the digital commons recognises is that creation is not produced out of a vacuum; we inevitably build upon the works of others, be it consciously or subconsciously. Thanks to advances in digital technology and communications networks, we are entering a new era of creative production. In the mid-to-late 1990s, the internet was viewed as having unlimited, even unrealistic potential as a medium for commerce. </p> <p>Now, it has increasingly become a platform for cultural communication, with everything from citizen journalism via blogging to tagged photo albums via <a href= target=_blank>Flickr</a> to melding together songs or movies via mashups. Yet much like the great failed hopes for e-commerce, some question whether this new digital cultural revolution will actually affect our culture in fundamental ways. While it will clearly morph and evolve in various and perhaps unexpected ways, this cultural revolution is here to stay.</p> <p>The very heart of this revolution rests on a simple concept: semiotic democracy, or the ability of users to produce and disseminate new creations and to take part in public cultural discourse. You've all probably seen a <a href= target=_blank>YouTube</a> video where someone is lip synching to a song or heard a mashup of two popular tracks, yet this new form of cultural creation goes far beyond faddish remixes or home videos. Users are by and large developing and posting their own "original" creations as well. (Original may be a misnomer, but let's suffice it to say that examples such as blog posts, photographs, and songs written by a band are not blatant remixes.) </p> <p> <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3643">Anyone</a> can now become a creator, a publisher, an author via this new form of cultural discourse, a platform to publish to the world at large that grants near instant publication and access. While the concept of, say, being able to post or comment on one's blog may seem mundane at this point, if I had told you fifty years ago that you'd be able to publish something so that almost anyone, anywhere could read it instantly, it would have sounded like something out of a science fiction model. </p> <p>Individual artists, producers, and musicians need no longer depend on the power of major corporations as producers or distributors. Take <a href= target=_blank>MySpace</a>, where many new and up and coming bands have posted their music. Instead of relying on a record label, they can now gain exposure and disseminate their music via the site, where some bands have had sold-out tours or sold countless CDs thanks to their MySpace page. </p> <p>Despite the increasing ease of doing so, though, we see that many professional creators are still relying on the publisher-centric business models of the 20th century. This will not last. We will see massive disintermediation in the next decade or so. More artists and creators will self-publish, and they will find ways to do so in a sustainable way, perhaps by selling mp3s on their website, opportunities for production work, or touring to a greater number of fans.</p> <p>That's not to say that everyone will become a professional, or that there won't be a space for those who merely wish to create as a hobby. Yet the age of the superstar is set to decline. As more people have more access to culture that interests them, coupled with the proper tools to get them there, it is highly likely that they will not all gravitate toward the same megastars. Throughout the last fifty years, culture in the western world has primarily been filtered by a few major corporate entities, sometimes looking for the next best thing, and increasingly trying just to recreate it. The digital cultural revolution, if it materialises, will enable us to forgo those filters and seek out more of what we like, or perhaps enable us to discover something we love, but would have never known it otherwise.</p> <p><b>Threats to progress</b></p> <p>Yet as we enter this era of democratic cultural production, the law is increasingly out of touch with <a href="/articles/View.jsp?id=3266">reality</a>. There's a complete lack of congruence between what is on the books and what is actually happening in the real (or digital) world. The vast majority of the remixes out there, believe it or not, are illegal. Ranging from video lip synching to recreating film trailers, they infringe the copyright law that has been harmonized throughout most of the modern world. </p> <p>In fact, just last week the Recording Industry Association of America (<a href= target=_blank>RIAA</a>) announced that it would start tackling the "problem" of users creating videos that infringed on their copyrighted works. (Bands sign away the copyright to their recorded works in virtually all major label contracts, leaving it in control of the labels.) As a result, they have sent "cease and desist" letters to those who have made the videos, and they are working with YouTube to develop technologies to identify their music in such videos so that it can be taken down. </p> <p>It's quite interesting, then, that these are the same record companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and marketing, and yet when such users are arguably doing so for free, they immediately seek to put a stop to it under the guise of "intellectual property" violations. Music videos are primarily utilized for the promotion of CD sales to begin with, and it is completely conceivable that such videos would serve as a benefit to the owners of the music as an albeit unintentional yet effective tool of marketing and advertising.</p> <p>Further, digital rights management (<a href= target=_blank>DRM</a>), or technologies that restrict access to a particular digital work, such as not allowing users to print pages of eBooks or make a copy of a digital music file, poses a serious threat to the development of the digital commons. </p> <p>Laws have traditionally allowed for fair uses of copyrighted works, whereby an author can, for example, take a clip or excerpt of a work for artistic, critical, or educational use, or record a copy of a TV programme for later viewing. Technologies such as DRM stand to prohibit such legally granted rights, and laws that prohibit the circumvention of these access control measures can even stand to criminalise what would otherwise be a completely legal use (for example, getting around the technological access controls in an eBook of a public domain work would be a violation of such laws). </p> <p>The increasingly burdensome application of copyright law to uses that were previously given a blind eye, such as quick clips of other videos in documentaries or songs with 3-second samples from others, stands to pose serious burdens to creators, while the fear of potentially getting sued has resulted in the stifling of creative work that makes even legal uses of others' works. So as we have an increasing amount of culture produced that completely disregards copyright, it has been coupled with a backlash from those that view such creation as a threat to their current business models. </p> <p>The implications of the backlash can be seen in the example of a song called <em>Amen Brother</em> released by a soul band called <em>The Winstons</em>. It contained an irresistible drum riff, one that would later capture the minds and ears of producers and the listening public at large. A multi-second portion of the song, what has become to be known as the <a href= target=_blank>Amen Break</a>, was discovered by hip-hop artists in the 1980s and utilised to produce the underlying beat that has been in countless songs since. </p> <p>In fact, an entire genre of music, known primarily as drum'n'bass, is almost completely reliant on this portion of the song that lasts less than 20 seconds. Luckily for us, this music developed in a culture where sampling was a new art aided by the development of samplers, or machines that allowed the replaying and modifications of portions of audio tracks, and where artists were able to essentially freely sample and borrow from others. </p> <p><b>A remixed future? </b></p> <p>In the last several years, this golden era of sampling has come to a close, with courts in the US declaring that a mere three-second sample is sufficient to constitute a copyright violation, and that any sample of a digital recording whatsoever, even lasting a millisecond, would be an infringement of copyright. If the laws of today had been exercised twenty-five years ago, hip-hop, among other genres, may very well not exist today as we know it.</p> <p>While the legal threats to the digital commons are often the expression of business or corporate interest, different concerns arise. Some worry about the dangers of having such an explosion of available culture and knowledge, and these concerns are not without merit. We are increasingly entering an age where we have too much information and too little time, perpetual multitasking with shortened attention spans. </p> <p>Sifting through the information and the culture, especially when there may be a lot of stuff out there that is just plain bad, is not an easy task. There is thus an ever-increasing role for aggregators, or ways of sifting through and recommending various forms of culture, be it a cool, new band, or an interesting article. Such filtering mechanisms, which could range from a blog that readers trust to provide quality links to articles (i.e. BoingBoing) to a website that users rely on to provide reliable critical music reviews (a la Pitchfork) may serve a critical role as the amount of available content out there increases.</p> <p>Others stay awake at night fretting about the decline of a "common culture", a common space, be it one of political events or popular TV shows, that can bind a society together. It is true that the net may enable us to increasingly fragment as, say, territorial border-based societies, yet the need for trusted sources &#150; be it aggregators, recommendations of friends, or major news media outlets &#150; will continue to serve to bind societies together to an extent. Further, the ability for citizens to better specialise in particular areas (say, I'm an electronic music expert, and you are a connoisseur of jazz), may serve to enable greater interaction across societies and cultures.</p> <p>The movement does not solely touch on a small, tech savvy elite. Instead, such new forms of cultural discourse are reshaping the way that we view our environment, media, and society. It can affect us on a micro-level (even if 20 people read one's blog, that's still 20 people more than before), or a macro-level (how many people saw the <a href= target=_blank>JibJab</a> or <a href= target=_blank>BusUncle</a> videos?), yet it is here to stay. Our culture, be it global or local &#150; or more likely a rich, uncategorisable mixture of both &#150; will never be the same.</p></div></p> Culture arts & cultures media & the net remix world: towards a global digital commons Elizabeth Stark Creative Commons share alike Mon, 19 Jun 2006 23:00:00 +0000 Elizabeth Stark 3662 at