Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Creativity, Computers and Copyright | The Register

A month ago, U.K. site "The Register" ran an article discussing the Creative Commons license and whether it was really necessary.

"Computer evangelists find all this difficult to grasp, because their world is limited by what the computer can do. So (Creative Commons evangelist Lawrence) Lessig is undoubtedly sincere when he says that an abundance of technology leads to creativity, and restrictions on technology lead to cultural improvrishment. For him and people like him, it's probably true. But the rest of us don't define ourselves by the limitations of computer systems or computer networks.
It's a crippled view of human creativity. Beethoven doesn't need to be re-mixed - he needs a good orchestra. And Billie Holliday isn't enhanced by overlaying some beats. Nor is something special simply because it's passed through a DMA bus, or a Cisco router. History in the end judges what endures and what doesn't, so our responsibility - and it's such a burden! - is to celebrate what's good."

A month later and the responses have come in. Some interesting thoughts on the remix culture, the techno-utopians and art.

"I don't think the major goal for Creative Commons is to have Madonna or Robbie Williams release their latest songs under a CC license. Its more about creating a system where mostly hobbyists can cooperate and share creative works. Facilitating that in a similar way to how the GPL and BSD licenses have helped computer programmers cooperate and create things such as the GNU/Linux system."

"The reality is that when you work your arse off to produce something, and nobody pays you for your effort, you're (sic) choices become, do what I love and starve or do something else and eat. I'd like to see the looks on the faces of these people if their employers decided not to pay them anything anymore. I wonder how many would keep working, and yet they expect artists of every sort to keep producing music, movies, books, paintings, or whatever for free for the benefit of everyone except themselves."

"It's amazing how many campaigns have less to do with a real cause and more to do with a fashionable posture. It's like people think they're doing good, but really they just want to look good."

"Your article on Creativity, Computers and Copyright reaffirms three concepts that are usually unvoiced, but underlie geekdom:

1 - That the geek experience somehow supplants all previous culture and creative expression. Previous measures of literary worth, the skill of a composer or the talent of a film director don't apply to new media simply because it's on a different platform. Hence piss-poor blogs, flash-rendered animals dancing to looped samples and ultimately the Crazy Frog. I have some suspicion that this reflects the relative youth and limited cultural education of a generation of engineers.

2 - That the process is more important than the result, cooler still if it involves a new computer and coolest if blue LEDs are involved. This is endemic in technologists - from the desire that every item in our house should have a network connection, to the idea that the order in which you click on things in a webshop is somehow patentable. Though that latter example sits badly with the Open Source crowd, it's bourne of the natural tendancy of computer engineers to focus on the means rather than the end. Here, complex license schemes are the means and the end remains vaguely defined and as far off as ever.

3 - That creativity is an unlimited resource, only held back by the limitations of the distribution network and these damn tools. If we could only put video cameras in the hands of every person on the planet, and provide universal access to the results, thousands of new film makers will be discovered. This is a fallacy that has surfaced with each technological step in media - from satellite television to web blogs.

The only grain of truth is that we're steadily approaching the event horizon of a million monkeys - though as yet Shakespeare has not been sighted."

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