The Rambler :: blog

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Copyright newz 

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There have been a whole load of copyright/music/downloading/sampling/thekidsarealright/wejustwannalistentothemusicOK? things popping up recently, so here's a linky linky post bringing them all together.

First up, that Wilco interview for Wired News has been popping up everywhere. Even if you live in an online cave you may have seen it. As a confirmed admirer of Hans Robert Jauss and the Konstanz school of reception theory, I welcome sentiments such as this from Jeff Tweedy:
A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.

Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.
It's a clear choice as the headline-grabbing quote; but unfortunately I don't think executives are heavy on German literary theory, and the idea of 'concretization' is not one they've ever brought into a business model. For me, the stronger point is this
WN: How do you feel about some of the new kinds of rights management alternatives some are proposing, instead of our current copyright schemes -- for instance, Creative Commons licenses that would allow your fans to remix your material for personal, noncommercial use?

Tweedy: Commercial use is one thing, but I have no problem with fans tinkering with it on their laptops, then sharing it with their friends -- that's just a new way for them to listen.
It's still concretization obviously, but it's also more tangibly productive: people are making stuff. Hey, you might even be able to sell it. Consider this: there's just a chance that someone sampling the Beatles isn't actually going to hurt Beatles record sales one little bit; what if you stopped thinking of it as theft, and thought of it as a creative act - bingo! A new record to sell.

Seek out creativity, foster it. It will reward you, dumbo.

Speaking of the Beatles ... It had to happen; and now it has and it is pretty fly I reckon. DJ Danger Mouse has remixed a vid for The Grey Album's 'Encore'. Featuring DJ Ringo on the wheels of steel. I need y'all to roar.

On a more theoretical/activist tip, Downhill Battle have announced pubication of two new sites, "in response to the attempts by lobbying groups for Hollywood and the software industry to force misleading and propagandistic curriculums about filesharing and online rights into public schools." More:

The first page is called Kids Smell Bullshit and, as you may have guessed, this one's for the kids. Complete with a letter / photo contest (win an ipod mini!), a wiki to transform the bogus curricula, and a ton of crazy crap that kids love.

The second is a slightly more serious page called the Collaborative Copyright and Technology Law Curriculum. This one's for the grownups in the house who want to do some serious ass-whooping. It's a wiki (a collaborative editing/writing tool) for building a balanced, accurate copyright curriculum for teachers that want to address these issues in their classroom. Help us make a real alternative to the self-interested materials foisted on teachers and students.

For some background on these projects, the MPAA has hired Junior Achievement to go into schools and teach an anti-filesharing, "safety on the internet" class, intimidatingly-dubbed, "What's the Diff?". The Business Software Alliance, meanwhile, is paying the Weekly Reader to include their anti-piracy curriculum in the publication which goes out to millions of students. Putting aside the extremely problematic nature of a education system that lets companies buy their way into the classroom, both of these curriculums are narrow, misleading, and intended simply to scare students away from using filesharing software (and the internet). They do not discuss the purpose of copyright law, the role of fair use rights, or the many different ways that filesharing technology can and is being used. On the plus side, both are lame enough that they probably aren't making much of a dent into these impressionable young minds-- nevertheless, substantial alternatives are in order.
All looks very good in principle - although one voice has already commented that "this would be considerably easier to implement in my classroom were it not for the word "bullshit"!" Fair enough.

[Oh, and if you think that stuff about force-feeding the curriculum was all scary, read what the BPI are apparently up to. Nasty.]

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