There is a war going on, and I didn’t notice.
Two sides are fighting to determine who owns an idea. It is being fought on computers, in homes, and yes, in the courts.
On one side, the copyrighters, is made of a lot of powerful businesses, they own more than 90% of media in the united states. You may have heard of a few of them: Disney, BMG, Time Warner, Viacom, GE, Newscorp. They earn considerable profits from owning idea and letting consumers use them. That is, as long as the way that they are being used falls within particular parameters and they are being paid. They are controlling our culture in a very clever way. A person cannot take a song, change it or sample it, and then produce it.
The Verves “Bittersweet Symphony” used too much of an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones song “The Last Time“. The Verve had to give all their royalties & credit for the song to the Stones. What is interesting is the Stones got the idea for their song from The Staple Singers‘ gospel song “This May Be The Last Time“.
This side produces the anti-piracy ads. If you try to use an idea, paint a mickey mouse on the side of a daycare or download a song, without payment and permission, you are a criminal.
The other side, the remixers, including copyleft, creative commons and others, believes in the free access to knowledge and the ability to reshape and rework ideas. Public domain should be protected and shared.
A remixers manifesto:
1. Culture always builds on the past
2. The past always tries to control the future
3. Our future is becoming less free
4. To build free societies you must limit control of the past.
The first point, that culture builds on the past has long been acknowledged.
Bernard of Chartres said in the twelfth century that we are “perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients]” and so can see further. Essentially we are always building on the past or from the past comes the future. In his 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards stated the song The Last Time: “was basically re-adapting a traditional Gospel song that had been sung by the Staple Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time…At least we put our own stamp on it, as the Staple Singers had done, and as many other people have before and since”.
What I find interesting is that as a society, we should limit the control of the past. I admit, it is not something that I have thought of before. When you have a child, you teach them your belief system, and your ways of knowing. Initially a child’s every move is controlled but as time passes and they grow and develop this control is gradually relinquished until they are ‘being’ on their own. Sometimes, they ask for advice, sometimes they accept advise, but ultimately who they are is up to them. They have grown up and we need to respect their ways of doing.
I am not sure why our creative creations or intellectual property. are different. When we first create our creation, we have control, but over time, control should be relinquished as it has its own life. Our children and our culture are the future. We need let go and admit that we have outgrown the archaic and oppressive copyright laws.