Archive for July 2011
Canadian copyright law prevents me from posting examples of my ‘published’ work, that is to say, produced television episodes that I wrote, on my own web page on the Internet.
Because I don’t control the copyright.
The same holds true for all the other creative professionals whose creative input went into the work, because a corporate entity holds the rights to all of our combined creativity. As near as I can tell, the corporation owns these rights by virtue of picking up the tab.
Just as the actors or even the director wouldn’t be able to post their demo reel online without first securing the permission of the corporation that owns the rights to their work. Maybe if you are a really really big star.
But I understood that going in; it was the price that had to be paid if you wanted your work to be produced. When I was young I was willing to pay that price.
Of course, back then, that was the only way open to creators. Massive amounts of capital were required just to make a film or television episode. Copying was very expensive. There was no Internet to make international distribution possible, not to mention inexpensive.
So the film and television companies had absolute control. That’s why there are director’s cuts. The “studio” gets to decide what version of the movie will be released. The director might be putting his/her blood/sweat/tears on the line, but the studio is putting its money on the line. That’s why they call it the movie business.
Money trumps art.
The decisions made by a movie studio or production house aren’t made by creatives, but by money men and marketers. For a feature film, most often the director puts the film together they way s/he thinks best. Then the studio looks at it and decides if that is what will be released or if it needs to be re-cut. You know, when the project is risky – if the movie doesn’t follow an established formula. Anything innovative is always a gamble. Original is not good business.
Creativity is human; corporations are non-creative. Yet it is the corporation that has total control over the creative elements of film making. The studio releases the safest and least innovative movie possible because in that way they hope to attract the widest audience possible. The studio only wants art that will put bodies in theater seats. Ironically, in the same way they sell copies of movies in multiple formats to maximize profits, it is now common to release the “director’s cut” on DVD so they can sell more copies of the same movie.
That good movies still manage to get made is sometimes happy accident but I think more often it is due to the dedication of creatives who fight and strategize their way through the system. Even so, fewer and fewer original movies are coming out of Hollywood. The great original movies I’ve seen over the last few years have been mostly made as independents and only then released under the studio imprint – and distribution. Original is always a gamble; if you make movies from successful novels or comic book series it will attract a guaranteed audience.
This is part of why I think that corporations should not be able to hold copyright. Corporations don’t create art, creative people do. And corporations have been using copyright laws to take control of human culture.
how copyright law has hurt me
My career began in the media industry. I worked on a variety of projects and got a variety of credits. And there is nothing like seeing the projects you have worked on, in any capacity. Where possible I have video tape copies of some of the projects I worked on. Some were given to me by the production company. Others I’ve gone out and purchased. And there are some projects that I worked on that I have never seen. It is sad that I’ve never seen the “Hall and Oates and the Nylons” TV special that I worked on as an assistant video editor.
But it is tragic that I have never even been able to view ‘The Dreaming Field’ episode that I wrote for Nelvana‘s animated ‘The NeverEnding Story‘ series. As was my custom, I requested a copy at the time, but I was told by the head story editor it was against corporate policy, and that even he didn’t have cassettes of episodes he’d written.
In the years since writing the script, I’ve only ever found one commercial Neverending Story VHS tape from the series in Canada. And it didn’t include my episode. But the world has changed. The cost of the technology has dropped, and it is no longer prohibitively expensive to make copies. In recent years, the Neverending Story series has been made available online as Amazon downloads. Yay!
Except copyright prevents me from paying $1.99 and downloading a copy of ‘The Dreaming Field‘for myself, because:
Video Playback Not Authorized”
“We have detected that you are not located within the U.S. Due to licensing restrictions, Amazon Instant Video Customers must be located in the United States when viewing videos online.”
“Licensing restrictions” are part of copyright law. They call this “copyright protection,” but I really don’t see how this protects me as a creator. Sure, I was paid for the work. Over the years I’ve received sporadic tiny incremental sums. “Royalties.” A much greater percentage of the royalty is paid off the top to the copyright collective that administers these funds, supposedly “on my behalf”.
The argument that is always made in support of increasingly restrictive copyright law is that copyright protects creators. I don’t believe that.
I wrote “The Dreaming Field” script more than 15 years ago. Back when copyright terms ran for a mere fourteen years, it would be in the public domain by now. Nowadays copyright terms run for decades after the death of the author. That helps me how?
In today’s world, I still have never had the chance to even see the film made from my script. Thanks to copyright.
That hurts me.
Jamendo gives us back the ability to discover music through sharing.
I’m emailing my nominations for the Jamendo Awards, but I thought I’d share them with you too. I don’t think this music is every bit as good as what you would hear on the radio.
My Jamendo Awards Nominations
Allison Crowe (pop)
ALÓ DJANGO (world)
Distimia (España) (Instrumental)
Revolution Void (Electro)
Josh Woodward (rock)
The James Quintet (urban)
i am this (experimental)
Because the music on the radio all started sounding the same.
Can you differentiate between Justin Bieber and Brittney? I can’t. That’s why I stopped listening to the radio.
So for a long time I was only listened to my vinyl, cassettes and CDs. My only possible introduction to any new music was been what I hear at venues like the Beaches Jazz Festival or Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festivals. If I like it, I buy the CDs the artists are selling.
But I found Jamendo just when my record player pooched and I’d worn out Paul Simon and Huey Lewis cassettes.
Since I’m a wee bit older than the average university student, I had to research what was currently hot for my novel, “Inconstant Moon.” and frankly the only new mainstream music that I could find worth listening to is Black Eyed Peas. The E.N.D. is the only Big Six CD I’ve bought in years.
In the normal course of events, it takes hunting and sampling to find the music that resonates with me. I’m not about to stop listening to the old music I’ve grown to love, but I find it far easier to find great new music on Jamendo than on the radio.
More than any other single source I am aware of, Jamendo is the source for music that can be freely downloaded for personal use.
Which means that, since discovering their website, I have been able to discover new music again. And I know full well that I have barely scratched the surface of what awaits me on Jamendo. That’s why I love Jamendo, even though technical difficulties have sometimes prevented access, or as now, voting in their contest.
It’s crazy. At a time when the technical barriers to people being able to share culture are at an unprecedented low, and the large distributors that have been milking and funneling culture into homogeneity have been seeking to prevent it with copyright law.
Today is Julian Assange’s birthday.
Assange thinks human beings have a right to privacy, but democratic governments owe their citizens transparency.
Julian Assange isn’t an ordinary guy, but an innovator. Not mired in preconceived notions, he is a prime architect of WikiLeaks, the first Stateless news organization. WikiLeaks was designed to anonymously accept, vet and publish information that the public should be privy to.
It appears that elements of the United States government prefer to operate without citizen oversight. Some decades past, US government leaks given to Woodward and Bernstein brought criminal behavior in the Nixon government out of the shadows and into the open. For this service to their government and their nation, Woodward and Bernstein were lionized.
Although Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks were well thought of for their efforts in support of freedom in repressive regimes, the U.S. government attitude changed abruptly with the release of the the “Collateral Murder” video where military personnel cavalierly used unarmed civilians for target practice. As far as I know, no attempt has been made to address this problem. The war criminals implicated in the video don’t even appear even to have been reprimanded.
However, Bradley Manning, the young intelligence officer accused of being the WikiLeaks whistle blower, (the modern day equivalent of Bob Woodward’s “Deep Throat”) has been isolated, incarcerated, and held in conditions that suggest attempts to “break” if not “brainwash” the young man. It must be noted that Bradley Manning’s extreme loss of liberty has been effected even before he has been convicted of anything.
Wikileaks, and anyone associated with it, has also come under fire.
Julian Assange, as “the face of WikiLeaks,” has drawn the lightning. Various powerful people have leveled threats against Mr. Assange, including Canada’s own Tom Flanagan, reputedly a friend and mentor of our sitting Prime Minister, who advocated assassinating Julian Assange on Canada’s national public broadcasting network, CBC Radio-Canada. The video of Flanagan’s crime (counselling to commit a crime is in itself a criminal offense in Canada) has been seen around the world. Yet in spite of citizen complaints, petitions and public pressure, no Canadian police force will even bring charges against this well connected Canadian.
Currently, Mr. Assange is being held in the United Kingdom under house arrest, with an electronic surveillance ankle bracelet and draconian terms of “bail.”
Ostensibly, this is because Mr. Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors wish to question him. They had previously questioned him, and declined to bring charges. Many people believe the real agenda for Mr. Assange’s extradition is simply a sham to keep him “on tap” until the American government manages to find laws under which to charge him. Failing that, existing American laws, which currently allow protection to news media when publishing material that may have been obtained illegally by whistle blowers, may be changed.
So today, on his birthday, Julian Assange remains a prisoner.
House arrest may not be as bad as incarceration in an actual jail, but it is, nonetheless, a deprivation of liberty.
In spite of this, I hope Julian Assange can have a good 40th birthday, and take heart that many ordinary people around the world support the cause of freedom, and we do appreciate his efforts.
Julian AssangeThis photo by New Media Days / Peter Erichsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Free Bradley Manning photo by Steve Rhodes released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No derivs License
Thanks to my brother, humor columnist, Larry Russwurm, for spotting and photographing the graffiti below in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and releasing the image under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.