Friday, July 29, 2005

Copyright... Into the breach.

I thought the first seminar on participatory culture provided a new insight into the way the expanding scope of copyright law could be perceived as a threat to grass-roots cultural production. Lasica's 'Darknet' is an effective, and enjoyably dramatic, exploration of how 'big-business' studios etc. seek to protect their interests often at the expense of interactive, cultural productivity among those who consume and love their work. With the Indiana Jones example, I thought Lasica made quite a strong argument about the way control and ownership of modern cultural works belong more and more to the administrators of that work (ie. publishers, studio executives and those who package and publicise it) than those who actually create the original ideas or execute their interpretation on screen. Although director Spielberg supported and loved Strompolos and Zala's tribute to his direction of Indiana Jones, he did not (as one person within a collaboration being funded and owned by Lucasfilm) have the right to advocate it being shown. Thus this film, which Harry Knowles, creator of 'Ain't It Cool news,' has called "the best damn fan film I've ever seen... This is the dream of what films can do. Motivate kids to learn and make it" will NEVER be seen by an audience LEGALLY! It seems like such a tragedy!
During the seminar I grappled with the reality that whenever creative authorship and ownership are talked about in relation to digital culture and the web, it is impossible to draw a line in the sand (get it-sand? Sorting through web is like searching through grains of sand?! mwa ha ha!) that can objectively (impossible!) distinguish between the unacceptable stealing of , and the acceptable borrowing of, ideas.
BUT! I think Lasica's most powerful statement about finding this middleground is in the way the work 'Darknet' was published partly on net and also in book form. This way, Lasica walks the talk and gives net-users free access to his ideas ON THE SUBJECT OF free access to ideas, and also has a publisher to spread the word about the work and to allow him to keep writing by financially supporting his output. In this instance, Lasica is able to allow for the free consumption of his ideas, while still operating within the administrative institutions that allow for these ideas to be known publicly in the first place.

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