Copyleft (Copyright FAIL)

There has been a transformation in the way we consume culture. Let’s take the news for example. A decade ago, the only way we could get our news was by buying a newspaper at the news stand, or opening CNN. The issues of state were decided by a small select, namely the editors of these papers or news channels. Watching just a few hours on Fox News, CNN or even The Daily Show can show you how much power these editors have in enforcing an agenda, a political wold view.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN’s Just Sayin’
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Healthcare Protests

This news by broadcasting, news from few to many, has been coined by Larry Lessig as Read-only-culture. Larry Lessig, the coolest lawyer on earth, specializes in copyright laws, specifically dealing with what is considered fair use, public domain, creative commons, etc. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you must see his TED lecture.

Lately, we see a paradigm shift created by the rise of social media. Blogs, and now Twitter, become sources of real time news, commentary and opinions. These are gathering places for us to discuss what is happening in the world. The proverbial water cooler, if you wish. And it is working great. In any given subject I can find a blog that covers the field with greater depth and accuracy than the news. Some reporters have blogs to discuss things that their editors block, which is even better, because good reporters are better at reporting news than unprofessional bloggers. During the time following Iran Election, Twitter was the only source of information. This is what Larry Lessig calls Read-write-culture.

New industries are coming

Talking about the world is our way to feel part of it. It’s deeper than the news. We do it by posting videos on YouTube. We do it by pointing out to music that we love. We do it by editing, and re-editing the media around us. After the news, crowd-sourcing will transform more and more industries.

One of the strongest opponents to the new world order is the music industry. The music industry is governed by a small group of people, that can’t create music, and hold the copyright to most of today’s music. These people have everything to lose by the changes in the economy. The artists can survive without them, by selling direct-to-consumer. In the new world, these people have no added value to the market. FAIL.

That is why the music industry is so against change. They oppose (somewhat legitimately) the unauthorized download of music from peer-to-peer networks (such as Napster, Torrent, etc.), though they act like total sticklers about it, suing their customers left and right. They also oppose mixing and mashing of old music into new music.

Mix & Match and the fair use

Copyright laws protect the owner of rights from blatant copying of the material. The only clause under which public display or performance of copyrighted art is allowed is fair use:

Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

An example of what I understand to be fair use are the marvelous mash-ups created by Kutiman, which mixes pieces of YouTube clips to create new music.

RIP: A remix manifesto

Saving best for last, I recently saw a movie called RIP: A remix manifesto, which beautifully demonstrates the problems in today’s music industry, and the deep contrast between how the public understands copyright and how the music industry (and the law) understand it.

This is a MUST SEE, and it is all available here, to watch and to remix.

BTW, the media archives of RIP, are hosted by the very awesome Kaltura, which I’ll write about some other time.