copy right or copy better: folk vs fundamentalism

Alex of showed me this Danish documentary about copyright. It’s definitely worth a view (and so is a visit to A lot of viewpoints mentioned in the documentary were also mentioned in the discussions on triiibes.

One quote really struck me:

“You have this new competitor that is ‘everyone else’. So the law has been consistently changed in the past 12 years in order to protect certain very specific interests, especially for the North American cultural industry in order to prevent society from becoming the producer of culture in itself and for itself.”

These words come from Ronaldo Lemos, a Brazilian law professor at FGV Brasil. The fact that “we” have become the most important competitor for the cultural industry, shouldn’t amaze us.

C u l t u r e  i s  m e a n i n g

Culture is in essence giving meaning to life. Culture is what we do. We stage stuff in order to make it meaningful, in order to explain stuff and/or touch people. Move them so you like.

Yet certain ways of expressing ourselves have specifically been made possible through an industry who wants something in return for that ‘stage’ and these ‘means’. That’s the businessmodel in the cultural industry as we know it.

These industries made it possible for artists to express them in a certain way and at a certain scale. They also made it possible for us to experience these cultural meanings which woudln’t have reached us otherwise. They offered the means of production, distribution and marketing.

W e  d o n ‘ t  n e e d  t h e m  a n y m o r e

Yet it has become much easier to produce , distribute and market music, movies or graphics these days because of the internet and new software. It seems people (artists and audience) are asking themselves: what do we need these industries for?

By pirating and copying stuff people simply point out to the old cultural industries that they don’t need them anymore to fullfill these tasks. They don’t need them anymore to (re)create, distribute and share these cultural expressions anymore.

Today’s cultural industries should realize that they aren’t the only ones who create valuable meanings (culture). They’ve never been the only ones and they never will be.

M i s u s i n g  t h e  s c a r c i t y  a p p r o a c h

The way copyright laws are used now suggests that the cultural industries simply want to create added value by organizing scarcity. They want to limit access to making culture, to making meaning. They want to channel it, control it.

That’s the real meaning behind Ronaldo Lemos’ words. It’s frightening, because it shows how distorted the view of the current (American) cultural industry really is.

W h a t ‘ s  t h e  f u t u r e  t h e n ?

Where-in lies the future of these industries then?

  • If making culture means giving meaning, then why is it worthy for us to help certain people giving meaning in certain ways to certain people?
  • How worthy is this and to whom?
  • How can we explain this in terms of value and money?
  • What’s the difference between enabler and creator?
  • Is a meaning a product, a service, an experience or something else? And what does that mean?

F o l k  a n d  f u n d a m e n t a l i s m

Let me end this with another quote from the documentary, this time from “Girl Talk”, a music artist who mainly uses samples of other artists to create his own songs. The guy just remixed a Brazilian Techno Brega remix of Gnarls Barkley’s hit crazy.

“It’s like folk.”

Brilliant, really. “Girl Talk” explains that first Barkley had a story to tell and he used a particular format for it.

Then the Brazilian producer mashed up his song to tell his particular story (adapted to his audience and his context). And now “Girl Talk” uses that mashed up story again to tell his story.

If you think about it, it’s Shakespeare. His plays are also intelligent mash-ups and remixes of stories and myths which were also mash-ups and remixes, and so on.

Just imagine for a second there’s this myth, produced by a publishing company containing some valuable information about how the world works but also containing some crap and – because it is dated – stuff which cannot make sense anymore later on because society changes.

But because of copyright we cannot speak of these subjects anymore, rephrase the myth, readjust its expressions so our kids and their kids and their friends abroad can also understand what life is all about?

Basically that’s fundamentalism. That’s what happened to almost all great religious scriptures. That’s what happens if we allow others to make our meanings and simply say once to often


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