The context is copyright. The quote is from the book "Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig, with following subtitle; 'How big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity'.
Creative freedom used to be the default - not so any more.
These issues concern me deeply.
In my small world it merely causes frustration and more work.
On a larger scale it's more dramatic. Lawrence Lessig is talking about "Theft of our common culture"!
Thomas Otter (my husband's biking and blogging friend at SAP) alerted me to "Free Culture" as a follow up on a discussion we had about copyright for images.
I had been pouring out my frustrations about having to delay posting certain pages because they included photos I had 'borrowed' and altered. I knew it was wrong. But how wrong?
- The photos depicted subjects perceived as icons. Of course they were not mine.
But I have seen them so often that they are part of my cultural reference background.
The idea of them is mine, and everybody else's. We all more or less agree upon their characteristics.
That's why I used them in an art project about identity. I merged my face into the existing; a sphinx, queen Victoria, Chaplin, Warhol, Monroe, Mona Lisa and lots more. I couldn't use an anonymous person for this.
Now, this was work in progress with an unsure course. In the end I may not have shown the work at all.
Then came the blog. I wanted to illustrate what I communicate, and could no longer afford to be indifferent to do's and dont's of the public cyber domain.
Below: Example of taking, and altering, without permission.*
Altering, and taking without permission is a bit too much even on a blog that hardly anyone knows about.
I don't want to be a thief and even with permission from the source, altering is a whole other issue.
In the end I'll find new photos to illustrate my post, or make drawings of the altered ones.
Even if some photos are free (under certain conditions), others are not. Marylin Monroe in white dress is typically not. Of course I shall not use it, but take my chance at showing it as an example.
( If anyone objects to this I will of course remove it).
But being 'inspired by' is still (if only barely, I feel) allowed. So when freedom is stifled inspiration is stirred.
In this case it forced me back to the drawing board. Literally, my drawing table, which was both fruitful and healthy for me. Too much 'photoshopping' may be damaging to physical skills!
Below: Homage à Milton Greene - My face, my drawing - borrowed pose. *
However, the www is there with new demands to our ethical values. We have to become sharper and more conscious to foresee the consequences of the stand we take upon ownership of intellectual property.
According to Lawrence Lessig it is already late - "Creativity and innovation is controlled and owned." (listen to his talk on "Free Culture" ).
This heightened concern about who's the owner of 'intellectual property' - be it an image, idea or a handful of sentences - is working it's way through every creative corner of society.
Of course there are grave cases of real theft like obvious plagiarism, that's not new.
But there seems to be a notion that anything has a potential value if presented on the net, and thus a potential source of copyright infringement. Lessig is right; our common culture is owned and controlled.
Do I really want to accept control so meekly? In saying: yes, yes I'll change my work, replace the photos, rethink my ideas....... Because that's were it takes me in the end - I have to rethink.
In my particular case that may not be such a tragedy; as mentioned, it may be for the better.
But there are others out there with more important ideas in fields that could make a difference. They could just as easily feel stifled and stalled unless they are more rebellious than me and say; "Sod the law and lawyers! My matters are more important than that!"
Rebellious minds have always brought us forward.
As for where I stand on this? No, I do not want creativity controlled! No, I do not want to accept control of intellectual property to the degree we see now.
I think there's far too much ownership out there! I don't want to accept the consequences.
Being rather more of a coward than a rebel, I have to find other ways than fighting the law to make a difference.
I can go the 'open source' way and say; OK, you like something? Take it. Copy it. Print it onto anything. Use it for whatever. It would be nice if you told me, showed me or credited me as the 'source'.
I don't see this could harm my work. I'm the one with the originals, and they are protected left right and centre, as we know.
Notice that Lessig alerted us already four years ago (and probably before, too), while I didn't experience the consequences until lately.
Writers and journalists exprience new dimensions of the change in attitude as well; see this article by Charles Isherwood in International Herald Tribune on Des. 6. Eye opening and amusing on copyright, self-expression and self-commercialisation issues in the literate world.
Finally I cannot help but wonder whether the storyteller is affected too? There's been a revival of the old-fashioned storytelling but the tales are not necessarily old. Does the storyteller then have to pay royalty to someone before he retells a modern story?
I don't know the correct answer. Following guidelines for the web it ought to be "yes".
But if we want to preserve a 'common culture' to build on, "yes" is the wrong answer in the long run......
There are plenty of sources to free photos avaiable just by googling. The resource page "When image is everything" is particularly good. It not only lists sites - it offers detailed information about different search engines, explains copyright issues and image file formats.
For more copyright info check out these links:
- 14 Copyright tips for Bloggers
- 4 Basic Questions About Copyright and Weblogs
- COPYRIGHT & RELATED ISSUES FOR MULTIMEDIA AND ONLINE ENTREPRENEURS
- "Creativ Commons" - change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."