I’d just like to lay before you a couple of ideas to be getting on with. First, from Wikipedia, the following overview to Lawrence Lessig’s book “Free Culture”:
This book documents how copyright power has expanded substantially since 1974 in five critical dimensions:
- duration (from 32 to 95 years),
- scope (from publishers to virtually everyone),
- reach (to every view on a computer),
- control (including “derivative works” defined so broadly that virtually any new content could be sued by some copyright holder as a “derivative work” of something), and
- concentration and integration of the media industry.
It also documents how this industry has successfully used the legal system to limit competition to the major media corporations through legal action against:
- College students for close to $100 billion, because their improvements of search engines made it easier for people in a university intranet to find copyrighted music placed by others in their “public” folder.
- Lawyers who advised MP3 that they had reasonable grounds to believe what they did would be legal, and
- Venture Capitalists who funded Napster.
The result is a legal and economic environment that stifles “the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, exactly the opposite of the purpose cited in the US Constitution. It may not be possible today to produce another Mickey Mouse, because many of its early cartoon themes might be considered “derivative works” of some existing copyrighted material (as indicated in the subtitle to the hardback edition and in numerous examples in this book).
Second, the theories and practices surrounding the so-called remix culture, a concept Mr Lessig has also written about:
Remix culture is a term used to describe a society which allows and encourages derivative works. Remix is defined as combining or editing existing materials to produce a new product. A Remix Culture would be, by default, permissive of efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holders. In his 2008 book, Remix, Lawrence Lessig presents this as a desirable ideal and argues, among other things, that the health, progress, and wealth creation of a culture is fundamentally tied to this participatory remix process.
Finally, a thought from myself. In all the figures of speech and the written word that are simile, metaphor, cliché, quotation, mottoes, proverbs and sayings various, doesn’t writing show itself up to be the oldest remix culture in the world? Precisely the world where copyright has sustained its most firm and vigorous defenders is the world that has also reused its building blocks of communication with great imagination and little apparent fear of reprisal.
Copyright and remix are therefore not incompatible: only those with hidden agendas are likely to want to convince the rest of us that this is so.