“If creativity is a field, copyright is the fence” – John Oswald

We are not lawyers. We don’t have the energy to read all of the laws that deal with intellectual property. So if there is some problem with material that we uploaded to the website, let us know. It’s not because we are lazy (well, sort of), but because we have a different perspective regarding creative “rights” and intellectual “property”. The accepted norm today is that every artistic creation is automatically under the purview of intellectual property laws, unless stated otherwise. Our assumption regarding intellectual property is that all creations are free of any legal encumbrance, unless stated otherwise.

At present, when people talk about copyright, they tend to focus on the need of creators to earn money from their work (as a incentive for them to create), and in this way to control who may and who may not use their work. But do copyright laws really protect creativity, and does intellectual property really encourage the intellect? Perhaps instead of dealing with what is not permissible, we should focus on what is permissible.

Anyone who has ever drawn a smiley on the back of a notebook in some boring class, or hummed a tune along to a song that they heard on the radio, knows that creativity is an associative process. All creators and inventors owe their achievements and ideas to previous generations of creators and inventors. Or in the prescient words of the great physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton (who himself borrowed the phrase from Bernard of Chartres): “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Copyright should focus on access and not property. They are not needed to protect Bill Gates, the Wall Street Journal or the Koch Brothers, but to protect the teacher that wants to read a story to their students, to protect the researcher who wants to investigate an old document, and to protect a novice DJ who wants to make a mixtape of the music they hear.

Copyright laws must take into account the damage that is caused by the preventing the free flow of information, but at the same time to compensate innovation, which will encourage creativity and freedom. Real copyright must defend the rights of creators to draw inspiration from others, to be influenced by them, and to re-use their ideas – without it bankrupting them. Maybe we are naive, but how can you put a price tag on an idea, a style, a feeling? And why should we strip people of their raw materials they need to create the next wave of literature, art, politics, music?

Copying Is Not Theft from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

Copyright Law

The tension between private ownership of cultural symbols, artistic creations and other inventions, and their social implications, is resolved by copyright and intellectual property laws. These laws grant those with copyright the sole responsibility to prevent or to permit the use of their creative works for periods of decades, and are abbreviated in the term “all rights reserved”.

While the law does permit limited use of creative works for certain non-commercial purposes (“fair use”), these exceptions are not enough to guarantee the necessary balance between the copyright of the individual and the general public’s right to create. Walt Disney’s lawsuit against Dudu Geva, claiming that his character “Moby Duck” was stolen from Donald Duck, is a good example of this. [need to find an example in the US



Creative Commons

The “Creative Commons” (CC) project, founded in 2001, aims to allow creators themselves to determine the rules for using their creations, to decide for themselves which uses will be permitted, and which will be forbidden. For example, copying a creative work can be okay, under the condition that credit is given to the creator; or, one the other had, using it can be allowed under the condition that it is not for profit. Or, using and distributing a creative work can be permitted, as long as the same conditions are applicable to the other creative works derived from it.

CC licenses allow for ever creator to choose their desired combination of permitted uses. These are the conditions:

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they credit the creator for the original creation.

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work, as long as it is not for commercial purposes.

This license allows for redistribution, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole.

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work, and all new works based on it will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow the same types of use.

Read this short comic strip in order to learn about the range of rights that creative commons licenses cover.

Public domain

In addition to copyright laws and the creative commons project, there is the policy of “public domain” (PD) which states that there can be no limitations whatsoever on the use of inventions and creations, because they belong to the public at large. As opposed to devotees of copyright laws, who almost always use the term “public domain” in the negative sense — in other words, for creations and inventions for which their period of legal protection has elapsed – a “public domain” approach maintains that the right to freedom of thought and freedom of information are basic rights which are no less important that the right to sunlight and the air that we breathe. We too believe this.

The history of copyright


 Recommended Reading:

Copyrights and copywrongs

The Public Domain

Brand Name Bullies





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