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• Saturday, December 26th, 2009

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Where does art come from?  Is it born solely in the mind of the artist or does it manifest in the world and subconscious mind of the artist to come forth in the canvas and direct experience of conscience thought?  Is creativity as much a product of our society and spiritually as it is a product of the artist?  At this point you’re probably asking what the heck does this have to do with copyright ethics?

Copyright is designed to protect the artist and make it worthwhile for those with some degree of talent to reap the rewards of their talent.  Or is it?  What are we really trying to do as a society with copyright?  It is very confusing to me.  The legality of it is beyond my basic comprehension; its purpose is beyond simple meaning.  As a sole proprietor in this lawsuit happy environment, copyright tends to lead me more to fear than any dream of reward for my work.

Almost nothing can be created without some degree of “copying” or utilization of work done by other people.  Nothing comes from nothing.  All our perceptions, our notions, basic likes, and dislikes are given freely to us from others.  Our language itself and our thoughts could not be without the experiences handed down to us.

The moving picture on this page was produced from Odilon Redon’s picture,  “The Buddha”.  Even though I “made” the “moving picture” it is not really my work.  I did not make the software, the computer, or even have the basic idea of moving a camera through the picture.  Even the original artist had to have some influence from other art forms and ideas from the time he was living.  In fact I think that most of the work involved in making this web page was done directly or indirectly by other people.

I’ve been reading “Against Intellectual Monopoly” by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine.  See http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/againstfinal.htm for your own FREE copy and see http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/doc/2009/08/16/copy-rights-and-wrongs/ for additional information and where I found out about this book.  This has been fascinating reading that opens up many wonder questions like: “how can we all benefit from our creativity, nurture each other, and drive the mechanisms that improve technology and enhance our art and cultural experience?”

Sometimes when I’m in my personal creative space I’m not too concerned with where my materials are coming from.  Later after things are created I look back and read licensing agreements and then sometimes come to the conclusion that I’d better redo some stuff or perhaps contact some people to keep from stepping on some toes. This is ok if I’m just having fun or learning.

However, to sell someone the copyright to an item, everything has to be completely unique or used with the proper licensing terms.  If you just sell licensing of material for a specific purpose you can usually get away with using material in a much more liberal way.  Additionally, you can make derivative works from the material and reuse it.  If you sell copyright on computer code you must never use it again in any other project.  I don’t know about you but after spending several days writing an XML parsing routine and debugging it I really don’t want to rewrite it over again anytime soon.

Are these restrictions making it easier for us or harder?  I think if we can transition ourselves from an economy based on scarcity to and economy based on abundance we can benefit greatly all the peoples of the world.  If we have the knowledge to share a way to prevent blindness or disfigurement and it costs us basically nothing to do so, don’t we have an obligation to each other to spread and share this knowledge?  If something provides happiness to someone and it costs almost nothing as a society for us to provide it to him shouldn’t we not provide it?

Let me illustrate through a short fictional story.  Suppose there were some kids playing in a sandbox.  One of the kids makes the most amazing sandcastle, with spires, dragons, catapults, knights and fair maidens.  The other kids are most impressed and one gets the bright idea, “hey everyone’s going to want to see this, lets charge the rest of the kids admission to see this, would you mind if I do this?”  Half listening the kid who made the sandcastle says, “Go right ahead” and then he goes off making some mud pies in the neighbors yard.

So the business entrepreneur kid makes a killing on a quarter admission to see the sandcastle and then shares a bit of it with the artist when his mom tells him to.  Meanwhile the neighborhood bully catches wind of the action and arrives on the scene.  “I’ve got a patent on sandcastle art, my daddy was the first on the block with sand and therefore you’ve been using my patent without permission.  Gimme all your proceeds as a fine and in fact I want all your lunch money for the year based on my loss of business from your misuse of my patent”.

It seems like bullies can come in all kinds of forms.  Take a company that patents basmati rice, something given to us freely through many of years of collective efforts.  Anyone see a problem with one company basically monopolizing the seeds that provide the world food supply?  I have heard that most of the food we have in modern grocery store are made from four primary grains, shouldn’t we try to achieve as much diversity in those grains as possible not only for the basic health and nutrition of our population as for the safety of our food production?  After all it doesn’t take much for a disease or climate change to wipe out a large percentage of a population with no biodiversity in it.

We need a better way to slice the pie up.  There is only so much one person can eat.  If a handful of people control most of the cash and policies around its distribution, populations historically are made to suffer.  History has shown this.

We can make great changes; I think there are many smart people in this world and I have seen many wonderful new technologies, art and ideas brought forth.  We must be doing something right; perhaps there are ways we can do a few things better.  Anyone have an opinion?

Category: Copyrights
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