Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Week 3 Seminar: Copyright, Creativity & The Creative Commons

This week please read these items:

[X] Lawrence Lessig, “Preface”, Introduction”, “Piracy”, “Conclusion” and “Afterward” from Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin Press, 2004, pp. xiii-xvi, 1-79, & 257-306. (More details.)

[X] Sam Howard-Spink, "Grey Tuesday, Online Cultural Activism and the Mash-up of Music and Politics." First Monday 9.10 (2004),

And listen to one of these presentations (or both if you have time):

[X] Lawrence Lessig, ‘Free Culture Presentation’, 2002, 9Mb Flash File. (More details.)

[X] Lawrence Lessig, et al, “Who Owns Culture?” 2004, 45Mb Mp3 File.

(If you don’t have the bandwidth to download these files, let me know ASAP and we can arrange to get you a copy on CD.)

Last week Henry Jenkins and J.D. Lasica gave us some grounding in the way that cultural interaction and production have changed in recent years, especially in the context of digital media. Building upon these ideas, this week we’re turning to the work of Lawrence Lessig who has been called, among many other things, the Elvis of cyberspace law! Lessig is a passionate crusader for a legal system which reinforces and encourages creativity, rather than locking creativity down (which is what the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] and RIAA [Recording Industry of America Association] and their anti-piracy rhetoric platform are doing in Lessig’s view). In the excerpts from Free Culture that you’re reading, pay particular attention to the way culture has changed in terms of ownership and in terms of what that entails for creativity and cultural production. I’d encourage you to also explore the websites of the Creative Commons organisation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lawrence Lessig’s own website. Lessig's book is a great read, so if you have time you may want to dip into some of the other chapters, too.

You’re also reading an article by Sam Howard-Spink which explores the cultural reaction to ‘The Grey Album’, and the reaction when copyright holders tried to remove the album from circulation.

When reading, keep these questions in mind:
[X] How does the rhetoric of ‘piracy’ work in the debate(s) surrounding cultural production and creativity?
[X] What is the history of cultural ownership and copyright?
[X] How have large corporations and copyright holders reacted to new media forms and new media technologies in the past few decades?
[X] What does ‘Grey Tuesday’ tell you about the way individuals react to the current copyright system?


Blogger Hilary said...

Tama, is it possible for you to put up the individual parts of Lassig's text that we are mean't to read?
My computer seems to be having trouble viewing the entire Lassig docunment and I want to print out the bits that we need to read!!

Thu Jul 28, 08:22:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Tama said...

Sadly I don't have access to the sections as individual PDFs. Try saving the PDF file and opening it straight from the computer desktop rather than in a browser window, it might work better. Also, if you're printing it, don't forget the PDF page numbers are probably different from the book's internal numbering.

If you *really* can't get the PDF to work, email me ASAP and I can loan you the hardcopy book to photocopy.

Good luck!

Thu Jul 28, 11:54:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

So, when reflecting on Seminar 3 a number of points have stuck in my mind. Let me once again make an effort to list them in some form or another to prevent me getting sidetracked when ‘commenting!’

1) I still find Lessig’s important notion about the future building on the creativity of the past etc a fascinating point. One might wonder why it is we have ended up in this legal nightmare, and Lessig’s suggestion at the end of his “Culture” book about “getting rid of lawyers!’ might appear to be the way to go! How come those in media power have managed to gain the ability to create law’s that make ACTIONS they did, now legal?! The answer is of course through the use of some high paid lawyers! If copyright law as it is now had been around when Walt created the ‘Wonderful World of Disney” we might now have instead “The Wonderful World of A Multimillion Dollar Law Suit”. Creativity might slowly be ‘strangled’ by this urge to ‘protect’ the intellectual property of the artist, but it seems the important question to be asked is “is this what the artist intended when they signed onto copyright?” and who in fact are we protecting?
2) Surely, according to legal precedent as I am aware of it, the introduction of new technologies and their possible negative or positive affects in the past should be taken into consideration in the legal reactions now taking place over the internet and file sharing!! Lessig made a point of naming the different technologies and highlighting the reactions to them. They all appeared to threaten copyright and ‘intellectual property’ but in many cases they proved a positive influence. Why not now then, is the legal system allowing the internet and file sharing to take its course? The distinction was made over the discussion of BitTorrent that we had in class. Yes while it is possible for it to facilitate illegal actions, it as a technology may have a wealth of potential to offer!
3) There seems to be a lot of whinging and whining occurring, but, why have the Copyright laws not been adjusted to our current technological climate!? The world is changing, and so is society and culture, there is no point trying to stick an old and out of date legal notion in when it simply no longer covers the many aspects of ‘creative production’ occurring.
4) WHY DIDN’T DANGERMOUSE go to JAY Z FIRST? Ok, so I got frustrated in class over this, but for the love of god, can we please include COMMON SENSE into our laws? EMI should in no shape of form been allowed to do what it did. In fact, if DangerMouse had approached Jay Z with his proposal and his record, then gone to EMI and showed all appropriate respect, why then should his CD have been banned?
5) Why is there such a distinction between COVERING a song, and MASHUP’s. Surely a similar ‘royalty’ system could be set up.
6) I like this notion of internet activism that occurred in response to the Grey Album and I think it was just as effective as any bodily form of activism that could have occurred.

So finally, I think the important thing that needs to occur is such ideas as CREATIVE COMMONS….and maybe the official Copyright law could take up this. Its time for some renovating, and some reconsideration about the notion of creativity, music and art. Its about the artists and creating culture, not about the EMI’s and lawyers of the world!
oh and btw, it would be great if people would check out my other post linking to Tama's Machinima RIAA post on his blog, because I do think this brings up the issue of 'fair use' etc. Afterall, creating a Machinima Video is not going to lessen the sales of music!
Sorry that was long
Cheers all!

Thu Aug 04, 04:30:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Hello there educational folks,

In regards to our discussion; Danger Mouse didn't seem worried in this interview, "It's illegal, I know that and it may get me in trouble, but if I had thought about that I would have never made what I thought turned out to be one of the best things I ever did," he said (from

It's not only underground naughties who are getting the mash-up bug either, one site claims it was Danger Mouse's grey album which inspired Jay-Z to create his own with Lincoln Park.

"Jay lit the first spark by contacting Linkin Park about a possible collaboration after hearing about Danger Mouse's Grey Album and Cheap Cologne's Double Black Album (a blend of The Black Album and Metallica's Black Album). Instead of getting back to Jay's manager with an answer right away, (band member)Shinoda picked up the a cappella version of The Black Album, created mash-ups of three songs and e-mailed them back to Jay."

"When the two artists finally did meet, their work ethic was equally unorthodox. The plan was simply to create some mash-ups for the debut episode for the new concert show "MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups," which was taped at the Roxy in Los Angeles on July 18 and debuts on air November 10. But instead of simply reconfiguring a batch of tracks, rehearsing them and jumping onstage, Shinoda and Jay-Z decided to enter the studio and re-recorded their raps over the songs Shinoda had already deconstructed." (from the archive)

I guess the crucial difference here is that Jay-Z is hip-hop royalty while Danger Mouse is a lot less powerful. It's a lot easier to find your way through the copywrite minefield when you are already rich and powerful. For people trying to break into the industry the current system is less than encouraging.

Luckily the Grey album was good enough to spread about the net swiftly, so cease and desist has limited effect. I did read a rumour that Jay-Z was going to tour with Danger Mouse, but haven't found any official support for that... unlikely I think, given the legal situation...

Fri Aug 05, 05:56:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

haha, 'underground naughties"? I like it Gwen!!
Maybe its just the case that the rich and powerful need to push for a change in the laws! If Lincoln Park and Jay z can do it, surely everyone else should be able to! I mean, obviously the artists don't have a problem with their work being mixed, I think all they needed was a Creative Commons liscense!!!
In fact, "CC" should start a record label!! and distribute!
Though I think that rather 'utopian' remark could be translated into related more simply by the 'big' artists pushing for some of their songs to be included under the 'CC' smapler/mashup copyright, which I think is what some of them did in that magazine CD.
btw, I hate Jay Z.....I don't think he is that great at all!

Fri Aug 05, 09:34:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

"translated into related"?
What I mean't to say was "TRANSLATED INTO REALITY"
sorry, my apologies, my only excuse is its a friday night!
anyway, I hope my comment makes more sense now that I have set that straight.

Fri Aug 05, 09:37:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

Creative commons are indeed a big step into the notion of 'fair use', but yet I am still abit cynical about how relevant they can be; realistically. Taking the music industry as an example, it seems the publishers or distributers are the major determinants of the music sale, not the singers themselves. The reasons might could be because of companies like EMI have huge financial backings, proper connections and the 'know-how' to make or break a record sale.

Hence due to their major influences to the industry, it is rather difficult to change the rules, especially those that will affect them. It is not viable to completely remove them either, as they are still essential to the artists.

I do not think that they are impeding the development of the creative culture. It is just a matter of survivability or 'to each its own'.

Sun Aug 07, 10:30:00 am 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

I am so sorry everybody... especially Mr Tama Leaver. I kept looking at the wrong section of the blog, thinking nobody has posted his/her comment...of course I must admit I didn't have the courage to be the 1st person to post any comment, so...

Anyway, as for last week discussions, since it's quite late to comment on what had been discussed, I'll just point out something that I got out of last week's reading...which I'm quite sure is off the subject from what's been discussed in the past comments.

I thought that at one passage in the , it really discribed well (at least for me) what blogs really are and cleared my mind as to what exactly it is that I am doing by...f.i. posting a comment here. Blogs are spaces we use to "engage in a public discourse": to discuss matters of public import, to offer solutions to problems we all see, to criticize others who are mistaken in their views (which I don't necessarily agree because there is no opinion that is WRONG in this is just DIFFERENT from yours, unless it's like "Killing is a right thing to do.", which is undoubtedly an immoral statement). Blogs "create the sense of a virtual public meeting", one which does not require all participants to be there simultaneously as well as one in which conversations are not necessarily linked.

See you all tomorrow. Thanks.

Tue Aug 09, 06:44:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

Sorry the 3rd paragraph, I forgot to fill in the reading I was refering to...there's a space in the first line. The reading I was refering to was Lawrence Lessig, "Piracy" from Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity.


Tue Aug 09, 06:53:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

This is an extremely late post. I was migraine-y and not in class for this seminar so I just really remember, "common sense revolts at the idea" from the readings. It was the quote Lessig used from a judge making a ruling on a property case. In this case the letter of the law (which said the airspace above the farmers' property was his) couldn't be applied to the situation due to the way new aeroplane technology and its effects could not have been foreseen at the time of the laws' creation. (I'm not writing this very well but you get the jist)

As Hilary said, COMMON SENSE should be a factor in navigating the new territory of mashed-up creativity which new media gives rise to. Creative commons seems to have this factor as its' guiding force and changes the way we perceive copyright and authorship/ownership through creating a new layer of licensing practice which benefits both producers and consumers of cultural products and encourages the processes of engagement which are unique to participatory culture. These processes of borrowing from, and mashing up, pre-existing cultural texts will further the evolution of digital media through creating new users ehich can improve and build upon the technology as they utilise it. (Optimistically... Fingers crossed etc.)

Mon Oct 31, 07:46:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Mon Oct 31, 07:46:00 pm 2005  

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