Monday, December 01, 2008

What Free Culture means to me

I agree you don't need to pay to be a part of your own culture. There are many free alternatives, but as much as I enjoy embracing free culture, it does feel like a fight in some ways. Embracing free culture hasn't been easy. I do not know a lot of people personally that embrace free culture, so often times it feels like culture is a relationship I have by myself with the computer / Internet.

Something I have tried to do in the last few months is working away from non-free, or what I might call luxury, culture. I have not purchased a CD since the whole Napster thing, but this more recent transition I have been working towards only listening to CC licensed music. The result wasn't what I expected. I find there is a lot more variety, not to mention expression in the work. It started as an anti big media thing, but now I see it as a great way to introduce great new music to friends that have likely not heard it before. The best part is being able to easily contact artists, and when I leave reviews, I frequently get messages back. Those experiences have made it feel much more like a culture than just stuff.

I guess what I have enjoyed has only strengthened my idealism. And to clarify, I don't want everything to be 'free' in a monetary sense, just free in a way that the business model would allow me to do what I want with it as something I paid for. I would ideally like it if an artist would be flattered for me to make copies of their music and give them to my friends to enjoy. I want to listen to a wide variety of music the way it is free in a library or on the radio, but in a way that harnesses digital technology, and pay money to go to concerts where the band is making a good cut of the ticket price, the kind of thing where the supply isn't artificially deflated to ensure optimal revenue at the expense of calling fans pirates. I know this model would not work for all artists, but imho, the artists that would loose in this situation are the ones that completely lack talent. I also think such a model would make record companies obsolete (as if they are not already) or stores that box little units of information and put a sticker on them. It wasn't a bad way to do things, it just seems out dated. Record companies haven't been around for a long time, but music certainly has. I really believe exposure directly relates to opportunity. The issue is that it just isn't the same opportunity of the past.

Also, I think there is an under appreciation / mis representation of what is "other peoples work". All creativity builds on the past and on nature. Nobody today creates anything without the assistance of many other people. People that whittle figurines out of drift wood unlikely smelted the metal for the knife, and who ever did smelt it didn't do so from scratch. I think you know where that can go forever. ALL THINGS build upon and express other things around you. Who gets credit for what is a matter of advertising. People should certainly get paid for their labor and creative expressions of our world, but it is everyone else that as a whole that help provide that world worth expressing. Further, art that is not an expression of our culture, world, or life typically have no worth. Good art, stories, music are those that resonate with people because part of the art is already inside that person that sees it, hears it, or appreciates it in any way.

I just think that to SOME extent, that in the way creators and consumers are all part of the same culture that there bee some shared rights. I further believe Creative Commons, and the voluntary nature of it (maybe even especially its voluntary nature) it a step in the right direction.

People with money have spent money in Washington to help uphold the rights of artists through the digital age. By itself, I think most of it has been good. My issue, with regard to Washington, is that big media has gotten more of an opportunity to share their opinion and 'educated' people about their rights than, say. the historical purpose of public libraries, classical literature, free access to public domain in a fair way, and using the power of the Internet to extend the purpose of the public library in the way it was intended but was physically and technologically limited. I do not believe that public libraries and free radio are simply 'tolerated' because they could never have much influence, and because the control by the reader / public is 'limited' by nature.

I believe a full Library of Alexandria, Library of Congress, and everything else the Internet could strive to offer to the eyes and ears of every human being would make for a GREAT world, not one where "people would no longer be motivated to innovate" as the entertainment industry has lead many people, including law makers, to believe. We have the power; we need to make it a reality.

THAT is the free I fight for.


An over simplification is that fair use is an affirmative defense, not a right. There is a big difference between embracing something and tolerating something. There is a certain irony to 'fair use' considering what natural rights existed before. To paraphrase Lessig, much of what is regulated use and 'fair use' today was not very long ago completely unregulated.>br>
That is how "fair use does not [nor ever intended to] address free culture".

Example of how I see fair use in culture today is similar to regulations at an airport if things got a lot worse. Do away with the list of things you can't do or bring on a plane, and replace it with a very specific list of hypothetically acceptable things. Now, if you actually want to bring something onto the plane that may match something on the list, you need to explain where you got it, why you need it with you, and sign a waiver exempting the item from being covered by insurance in case it gets lost (kudos to anyone that understands the insurance part).

Excuse me, but just how can you call that "Rights".

Oh, and just in case it needs to be said, I did not mean to say that Free Culture does not address Fair Use, just that it is mono-directional understanding.

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