Thursday, 11 December 2008

Copyright in a Digital Age - Battle of Ideas - Nov 2008

The sessions from the November 2008 Battle of Ideas from the Institute of Ideas are starting to filter onto Fora TV. Now in its fourth year, the Battle of Ideas began in the UK as a vechicle to create a new generation of public intellectuals as well as creating a space where they can meet and have their ideas held to account.

Copyright in a Digital Age
This session, at the Royal College of Art, was attended by Helen Smith of McGovern Online, [small prize for spotting her in the audience] It explores the vexed question of copyright in the digital age.

The Panel
The panel consisted of • Shirley Dent • Cia Durante • Andrew Gowers • Tania Spriggens • Sandy Starr.

The debate
I found the debate a little mixed both in terms of reach and depth. On the one hand there was the fairly predictable, and dare I say, superficial response from the DACS representative Tania Spriggens, who claimed that if we didn't protect the rights of the artist], then not only was this a travesty of economic justice, we were also failing to acknowledge that artists need a special kind of protection and a special kind of economic status

I thought this kind of special pleading was long dead - but apparently not. Sanity prevailed from an audience member [actually an old friend Tam McGibbon] who neatly challenged this pretention by asking "as a former artist now painter and decorator, why should he, once he had painted a room yellow and magnolia, expect a further fee every time someone walked into the room."

Nailed the conundrum of analogue and digital rights for me in one!

Andrew Gower - Gower Review
On the policy layer I liked the contributions from Andrew Gower [Gower Report on IP - copies here] who quietly brought into the frame the tension between individual and public good which all to often never gets to the top of the page in these kinds of debates.

I especially liked his point that the rights of the artist/creative needs to be balanced against an acknowledgment of a double public good - one which recognized that artist gets both their inspiration and subsequent acknowledgments from the public store of intellectual and artistic history.

He also made the compelling point that the current system was in a the grip of a crisis of legitimacy and it was totally time we made progress in changing that. In short, it's broke and no amount of "getting cross from nursie" was going to fix it.

Sandy Starr
Quoting Harold Bloom's, The Anxiety of Influence, Sandy Starr, almost successfully, asked the audience to go two/three steps higher up the abstraction ladder by asking that people acknowledge that, arguably, all creativity comes from the common store , and that it would help us manage the consequences of this if we separated out the notion of moral as opposed to economic IP rights.

Once we had done this, we might retain the artists moral legitimacy to new ideas and expressions, but it was unlikely, in the long run, we could sustain the notion of an economic right to the ongoing form and expression of an idea.

As can be imagined the latter was a little problematic for some - especially the artist Cia Durante, who made up the last of the panel.

Cia Durate - total star.
Curiously, although she opened with a strong set of personal anecdotes which re enforced the argument for the economic rights of the artist, by talks end , in contrast to some others, she was the one who had shown the kind of intellectual and creative honesty which all sides need to demonstrate in order to move past the obvious impasse between public good and private benefit.

More specifically, not only was she totally aware of how much her work was influenced by others she was smart enough to emphasise the reverse was also true, and as a consequence very happy to help create a community of practice which acknowledged her work while not necessarily compensating her, provided that the latter got taken care of in other ways.

Given that she was the one person on the panel who probably needs the money, I thought her comments the most principled of all.

But don't mind me - go have a listen/look.

Creative Commons?
I was of course waiting for someone to bring in the Creative Commons framework, even if it was only to have a pop at it. I waited and waited, until finally, as part of the questions and answers [which by the by, form the bulk of the session] one audience member asked the big question - how do we get past all this to start talking about other kinds of rights frameworks? Here we go , I thought - but no.

There is one mention earlier - but its pretty hidden/ brief - like someone stuck on a desert island idly waving to a far away passing tanker way way out in the offing.


nzlemming said...

[small prize for spotting her in the audience]

6:06 sitting down in the front row?

jeez, the chair is a pillock who can't even read her own notes.

Anonymous said...

Read Bobe-On's comments on some pages of The Pirate Bay's blog. ;)

The less constrained information and its encoding/exchange/etc. becomes, the harder it will be to control.

Ironically perhaps, this makes me think of the Atlantic cod fishers' running out of cod in the ocean to fish.

There will always be creators that create for the sake of creation (as opposed to, say, profit), and it has become easier to share. :)

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