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Posts Tagged ‘copyrights’

A Second look at Jenkins

December 9th, 2009 No comments

In earlier Writing for Electronic Communities class we discussed changes that need to be made to our collaborative essay.  I have been assigned the section on Remix culture and Youtube.  Prior to this essay, I had every little experience with the art of composing remix. I needed to do quite a bit of research to be able to discuss the components and issues of remixing existing works to create something new and unique.   I looked to scholars such as Henry Jenkins, Chuck Tyron, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Lawrence Lessig, Eduardo Navas, Nick Diakopoulos, and others.  I explored relevant intellectual property laws at the U.S. Copyright Office and World Intellectual Property Organization.

Jenkin’s Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, which I recently (re)explored in light of the this essay, provides an insightful look at remix and sampling. Jenkins, like many others seems, to feel that remixing should be encouraged and embraced.  This is particularly important in the education system where students can learn to analyze remixes and discuss what must be understood to compose a remix such as various materials and relevant copyright law.  Similarly, he discusses how “students learn by taking culture apart and putting it back together again” (p. 55).

Jenkins spent some time explaining the concept of influent and how this is similar to remixing in many ways.  He states, “the digital remixing of media content makes visible the degree to which all cultural expression builds on what has come before it” (p. 55). He discusses the artistic process and explains that artists do not create uninfluenced by other works.  Instead, they “build on, are inspired by, appropriate and transform other artist’s work…by tapping into a cultural tradition or by deploying the conventions of a particular genre” (p. 55). Jenkins points readers to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey as a remix of Greek mythology and the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a “mash up of stories and images from across the entire biblical tradition” (p. 56).

He explains the complex nature of remixing and its many components which may not be well understood by those who have not worked in this area.  Jenkins explains that successful sampling from “the existing cultural reservoir requires a close analysis of the existing structures and uses of this material; remixing requires an appreciation of emerging structures and latent potential meanings” (p. 58). This process may also include making relevant connections between sources that are not usually thought of as related.  Jenkins and the other before mentioned authors have given me much to consider when composing this section of the project.

Where do you draw the line?

October 25th, 2009 No comments

Still pondering Siva Vaidhyanathan’s points in Copyrights and Copywrongs

Consider the following statement by Vaidhyanathan, “… copyrights used to expire on definite dates, thus constantly enriching the public domain with new material.” (p. 125)  I am quite honestly a little perplexed here. Is Vaidhyanathan saying that only items that are no longer protected by copyright are in the public domain? Having read the entire book, this quote may be a bit out of context. It also brings up another question: What if copyright periods were shorter?

Where exactly do you draw the line?

Isn’t it true that each new creation enriches the public domain regardless of copyright? The creation of Copyrights and Copywrongs certainly enriched the public domain. I am able to read the work and quote passages of it in my own writing, as long as I credit Vaidhyanathan words. Vaidhyanathan drew information from the work of others – works available in the public domain – and he credits those works in the Notes section that begins on page 191.

So, if copyrights expired in, just for theoretical discussion, five years. After five years passed, would an academic writer no longer credit the originator of a work and present the words and ideas as his or her own? Any worthy academic writer would never consider such a thing.

So perhaps we should look at this from the standpoint of  a fiction writer or musician. If the copyright on a work of fiction or music expired in five years – there would be pirated copies of both fiction and musical works everywhere. Note Vaidhyanathan’s statement, “American printers … pirate[d] others’ works … American authors had less incentive to produce original works …” (pg 43) Do we want to return to a time like that? I think not. Not only would works be pirated, but other authors would claim the work as their own creation. There would be no reason, other than moral clarity, to stop a person from pirating work. Creation on either end would decrease just as it did in Colonial times. Recall specifically Vaidhyanathan’s quote regarding the U.S. Constitution: “Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution … power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to the respective Writings and Discoveries.” (pg 44-45) The fact that the creators of our Constitution felt it was necessary to insert copyright protection is evidence of the decline of creativity due to pirated works. Also, given the short life span of people in colonial times, the original 14 years noted in Viadhyanathan’s book may have covered the majority of an author’s adult life.

So, where would you draw the line?

History of copyright

October 25th, 2009 No comments

I noted that more than a few of us were fascinated by the historical aspect of copyright presented in Siva Vaidhyanathan’s  Copyrights and Copywrongs.

Vaidhyanathan says in his introduction, “The chief goal of this work is to explain how essential the original foundations of American copyright law are our educational, political, artistic, and literary culture.” (p. 5) Vaidhyanathan, proceeds to not only explain the history of copyright, but also proceeds to give us concrete examples through the entire text. This enhances our understanding of copyright as well as helping us to question our understanding of what fair use is and how long a copyright should be in place.

In never knew, or even thought about, what the roots of copyright are. According to Vaidhyanathan, “American copyright emanates from the U.S. Constitution, which directs Congress to create a federal law that provides an incentive to create and distribute new works.” (p. 20) Motivation to create was brought up by me during the discussion in class regarding copyright. While some in class discussed abolishing copyright or shortening, drastically, the term of copyright, I brought up the fact that creative people may have no desire to create if they are unable to protect their creations from pirating. The framers of the Constitution, according to Vaidhyanathan, saw mass production of existing works that were pirated from works by British authors. There was little incentive to create something new in the United States as pirating works was so common. The following should be noted: “Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution … power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to the respective Writings and Discoveries.” (Vaidhyanathan, 2001, p. 44-45) Copyright does give authors the incentive to create without fear of pirating. Note also, in this post, I use quotes and credit the author for his work. This is done, not only because Vaidhyanathan holds the copyright to his words, but also out of respect for the author and his creation.

It is also important to remember that the United States was not necessarily the originator of copyright. Copyright law was changed multiple times over the course of history. According to Vaidhyanathan, “…the U.S. Congress in 1998 extended U.S. copyright to match the European term [life plus 70 years]…” (p. 25) Earlier in history, the U.S. made the effort to join the international community with regard to copyright protection. Vaidhyanathan states, “… the United States agreed in 1891 to share copyright protection with the British Empire…” (p. 160) and “European countries in general have afforded broader and deeper protection to authors and publishers than the United States has.” (p. 160-161)

Vaidhyanathan has opened our eyes to how copyright came to be as well as to considerations and debate regarding length and protection. I would not consider for a moment that Vaidhyanathan should not be protected for his creation of any written work, including Copyrights and Copywrongs. Though Vaidhyanathan seems to advocate shorter copyright protection as created by the framers of the U.S. Constitution, I would consider it unfare for Vaidhyanathan to have to continuously reapply for copyright of his works. Though some of my classmates may disagree with me, respect for this author, and any other who creates an original work, should give us some foundation for understanding of the need for copyright.

The Ethics of Influence

October 25th, 2009 1 comment

I have often wondered where the line between being influenced or inspired by someone and stealing from them is drawn.  Obviously copying someone’s work, passing if off as your own, and receiving some sort of credit for it be it momentary, prestige, course credit, or otherwise is wrong and unethical.  But what if the influence is less obvious.  If I write in the style of another author is that plagiarism.  As an aspiring writer I tend to read a great deal and it is natural to try to emulate far better writer’s work, particularly if you are prone to reading most of an author’s collection in a short time.  But when does that influence become plagiarism.  I think of the different movements in art.  I am most familiar with the impressionists so I will use them for this example.  In 1881 Claude Monet painted “Sunflowers”. This painting used many of the traditional impressionistic techniques; large and visible brushstrokes, calm subjects, open composition, attention to lighting, movement, and angle, etc.  In 1888  Vincent Van Gogh, a post impressionist, painted “Sunflowers”.  The paintings, both having a vase of sunflowers as their subject, look somewhat similar.  Of course there are many distinctions in style but it is known that Van Gogh was inspired by the impressionists and he probably saw the earlier painting. Obviously you cannot copy right an image of an object or a title but I wonder how something like that would be viewed in today’s copyright climate?  Whether it would be frowned upon.  If I admire greatly and attempt to write in the style of award winning author, Cormac McCarthy is that plagiarism?  What if I write a story about a man and his son going south in a post apocalyptic United States in that same style, which is a far too brief description of McCarthy’s The Road?  I think that Siva Vaidhyanathan in Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity might advocate that those things are not plagiarism. Vaidhyanathan supports a loose and balanced copyright system.  A system that “does not prevent artists from taking from the ‘commons’, supports the idea that new artists build upon the works of others, and rewards improvisation within a tradition” (p. 125).   To reach this the author suggests that the protection should “expire on definite dates, thus constantly enriching the public domain with new material” (p. 125).   Vaidhyanathan has given me a great deal to think about and I am anxious to continue looking at this controversial debate.