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The (potential) U.S. copyright czar and you


Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “” 410 to 11. The bill, if also passed by the U.S. Senate and made law, could create a “copyright czar” office and greatly expand copyright enforcement in and outside of the U.S.

Slashdot is of course running the story. A comment by Slashdot user analog_line lays out (with a brashness to be expected in a Slashdot comment thread) voluntary responses to increasingly onerous copyright restrictions — responses which you can participate in:

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is insane, and I hope it goes the way of similar bills before it, but the tighter the so-called “content cartels” grip on their copyright, the more persuasive the arguments for Creative Commons, GPL (v2 or v3), and other similar copyright-related social movements become. The same laws that protect the iron grip of Disney on Mickey Mouse for as long as they can legislate it, also protect those who participate in the Creative Commons (like Nine Inch Nails to take a totally non-random example) from the Disneys, the Time Warners, and the Sonys of the world. They can only be the gatekeepers of “the culture” if YOU choose to pay the entry fee. There’s plenty enough out there that they don’t control, that they CAN’T control anymore. All this sound and fury is trying to make people focus on them instead of looking for alternatives. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, and all that.

The onus is on those who claim that art should be for love and not money to put up or shut up. If you’re an artist, go make some art under something like Creative Commons that both allows you to make money off it when someone else is making money off it (and sue the pants off them if they don’t pay you for it), and allows people who aren’t making money off it to spend as much money as they want spreading the word about how awesome you are. If you’re not an artist, don’t forget that artists need to eat as much as you do. Actually reach into that wallet and give money to artists that take a chance and produce work that you like under a Creative Commons license (or some other license with terms that aren’t crazy) and be as generous as you can afford. Every Tom, Dick, and Sally that releases something under Creative Commons isn’t worth supporting just because they’re releasing as Creative Commons. There is a TON of freely distributable junk out there. However there ARE people out there that every one of us reading this story would feel comfortable supporting, and rather than shovel money on a monthly basis into Comcast’s, or Sirius’, or Time Warner’s or whomever’s bank account for content that isn’t worth using as toilet paper, a small fraction of that money could make a world of difference for one of the people that IS taking a risk and releasing good content under terms that are reasonable.

Where the hell is the Creative Commons Foundation of the Arts, taking donations and patronizing quality artists that release work under the Creative Commons like the foundations supporting free software? Do you think this stuff grows on trees?

Regarding analog_line’s last paragraph, there are many experiments with “crowd funding” of art, now mostly still small experiments. While those are exciting, and I hope to see much more innovation in this area, there is a vast infrastructure for patronage of the arts (more private in some jurisdictions, more state-run in others). Perhaps some of these patrons will encourage funded artists to release work under CC licenses — what is the point of funding creation (where the funding is publicly spirited) if that creation is not legally accessible to the public without a copyright czar watching over their shoulders?

Posted 09 May 2008