Copyright by Blunderbuss or Creative Commons

I had heard of Prof. Lessig from general browsing on the internet so I know he's got some clout with the online community, blogosphere whatever you want to call it but I had never really taken the time to find out what he does that seems to cause such a stir. He seems to have an almost religious following in some circles so I thought that I should go and see just exactly what all the fuss is about.

I had heard of the Creative Commons before so off I went umbrella in hand to University College London's Edward Lewis Theatre and grabbed myself a seat. I immediately recognized him because I had visited his website before I went to the talk for a general nosey.

This is just the way I heard it I am sure I have probably got some of the ideas and concepts wrong ;)

I loved the way he started his talk ie he took us back to the days when George Eastman was setting about pioneering the camera and how a law passed then enabled the camera business to flourish the way it did. He then described a few things that we take for granted ie cultural remix (first time I had heard this phrase), the act of taking something like a song and putting your own spin on it or having watched a movie how we describe it to our friends and embellish it the way we see it. This goes on every day and there are no copyrights on this and there shouldn't be.

He then moved this onto the digital age and casually pointed out that our cultural remix which we take for granted every day was now, in part, a digital phenomenon and no longer limited by distance. Kids today are growing up in this digital age and are making friends across the world without even meeting up so our once limited cultural remix has set new boundaries on a global scale. The way we think eat and speak and go about our business is now wrapped up online in this huge boiling ménagerie of digital stuff. People are expressing themselves in ways we would not have dreamed about a few years ago ie we have a new age cultural remix going on and this is a good thing. What is not good is that we have the middle men ie the lawyers trying to stifle this from happening. The lawyers and some corporations are doing this by making vast areas of our new remix illegal. ie

"Using DDT to kill a gnat"
(from memory, used by Prof Lessig in the talk, probably slightly misquoted)

was the way Prof Lessig described it and this is wrong. It was quite clear that Prof Lessig believes in copyright and so do I but it was also clear that he does not believe in applying it blindly. The normal bluderbuss approach to copyright seems to get his goat and quite rightly so, its bloody stupid.

Anyway, the talk centered around the creative commons license and what it means to us and what we can use it for and why we need it.

At the moment everything written down is copyright to the author or creator of it regardless of whether they have stuck the big C on it somewhere. This means that everything on the internet is expressly copyright unless stated otherwise. For people who want to use something they find on the internet ie a DJ finding a sample from a song, they cannot unless they have permission from the owner of the copyright so they have to get lawyers (middlemen) involved to sort out the legal stuff and they can carry on with their mixing. What the creative commons enable us to do is release a piece of work and mark it so that people know what they can and cannot do with it without having to get the lawyers involved ie cutting out the middleman. I am all for this, its a wonderful idea.

Can I prove that its a wonderful idea, yes I can. During the talk Prof Lessig played part of a soundtrack that had been released under the creative commons license "My Life" by Colin Mulcher which was then edited by Cora Beth and the editing certainly added something to the track. It was brilliant. This is not an isolated incident either.

Anyway, I have just found some of the material from the talks online so your time would be better spent watching these flash movies than reading this.

You might also be interested in

Learning More

Creative commons website

Find CC content

George Eastman

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This page contains a single entry by Harry published on October 4, 2004 10:40 PM.

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