Copyright only Hinders Creativity

The topic of Copyrights has recently been raised and having learned a decent amount of history concerning the origins of different media forms I have a few insights I’d like to make.  My argument sides mostly with creative commons as a licensing form.  This allows people to use others works in a manner that is prescribed by the creator.  People can take music, images, anything and recreate it, make something new.  I think this is integral to the continuance of media as a creative form of expression.

Many people argue that this infringes on the rights of the creator, that they need to be able to make a living off their work.  This is where I argue that people are wrong.  Straight copying of a work should not be allowed but beyond that people should have the freedom to use whatever they like.    It is only recently that the idea of ownership has come into play concerning artistic works.  I don’t think that allowing people access to their work actually prevents them from making a living.

At their beginnings stories were passed down and transfered verbally.  Bards would sing of them, and travelers, and traders would exchange news and stories as they moved around.  Their was a constant fluid motion to the creativity.  Aspects of stories were borrowed and reconfigured, and each party would tell things a little different.  This trend was not exclusive to any time period or just the telling of stories.

Composers have always influenced one another and reappropriated pieces of anothers’ work into their own.  An example of this is what’s referred to as an allusion defined as“a purposeful, extracompositional reference made by means of a resemblance, usually thematic and local in nature.”  A perfect example of this is the “falling thirds” technique that was used by Beethoven.   In Brahms second movement entitled “Andante”,  “the rhythm of the theme identically resembles that of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony”.  Musicians and composers undeniably affect one anther and classical music history is wrought with this borrowing and re-configuring of  work.

To me this is our history, it is one of creativity and imagination and fluidity.  I don’t think any one person has the right to make claims to something that was undeniably a mere product of the styles and themes and works of those he has studied and who have come before him.

It is the same with the history of movies.  The much beloved Mickey Mouse, created by Disney first made his debut as Steamboat Willie.  Steamboat Willie was a copy of the movie made by Buster Keaton.  A film entitled Steamboat Bill  that was released earlier in the year.  This is the history of movie business.  This is just one example of how business was run.  A fact that the biggest copyright holders (corporations) would like people to forget.  They got their success by using other peoples ideas.

There are thousands of versions of stories out there, taken from collections like The Grimm Brothers, who collected their stories from people all over Europe who were orally telling the stories.  So who has the rights to a copyright?

In all of the history of art work and stories, and music, and dances, and everything and anything that can be considered material culture?  Where is the evidence that says that allowing people access to your work endangers your livelihood? To me it’s just a matter of greed.  It’s not that people couldn’t make a living without copyrights, but it’s that they feel entitled, they feel that their work is solely their own.   But when you really look at history, any material we culture we create is in some way a reproduction of something from the past.

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2 Comments to “Copyright only Hinders Creativity”

  1. I completely agree with you about this issue. Most of our music, movies, philosphies, and even research are developed from our past so how would the copy right issue be addressed here? However, I think that there should be a measure for copy right ideas. Suppose someone invents something completely new and foreign. Something that has never been seen before or was not developed from something else, copy right should be added. You know?
    But I would say like 95% of things in the world came from previous things. You could take Steve Jobs as an example. He did not entirely invent Apple from scratch. I am pretty sure he took something from the old devices and added new things to make it his invention.
    Or what about the History books that are provided in classrooms for students to learn? They never copy right any information they state except the authors who “put it together” and the publishing company. So yes, I agree with your point about it is a matter of greed, but I do think that there should be an appropriate measure for copy rights.

  2. I think you make some really good illustrations of how creative commons has led to new innovation as an argument for a stronger creative commons and less of a proprietary model for copyright.

    It is important for an artist (or anyone working, really) to profit from his or her work, though. If you make a chair and I just take it and add a couple of arms to it, but never recognize the initial value of the chair you created in my process, it seems like yes, on one hand I’m creating something new and more useful; on the other hand, you’re out of luck for the work and resources you put in to build that chair. I’ve experienced a definite distinction between those who make a living off of their creative work and those who do not in their views on copyright.

    Ultimately, though, I agree with you in the sense that the system set up and in place right now was not built for the digital era of copyright and it infringes upon the important role of creativity in culture and expression. Before, there were very few copyrights actually issued and they were time-consuming to get. When digitization came along, everyone could make exact copies of these works and that changes the whole game. In fact, we’re all probably copyright infringers one way or another–often without even realizing we’re copyrighting because we think giving credit to an artist should be enough to deter is (like we think of references and plaigarism).

    I would argue that the best model for the digital age to move forward into isn’t solely creative commons, but split similar to now, only on trademarking and creative commons that is based on the preference of the artist. A lot of distribution companies make decisions void of the artist’s preferences. Of course having a large arena for creative commons is extremely desirable. Trademarking allows for more ownership over a work, which I think artists’ should have if they want it; but it still allows for copying. Most of the industries built around trademark (the fashion industry for one) allow copying because they are based on utilitarian items. Johnna Blakely gave a very riveting TED Talk on this, pointing out the increasing revenue of industries with this kind of system.

    It doesn’t mean that copyrights are unimportant, but within the creative industry, we may need to think ahead to new business models that keep it open instead of the growing potential that technological control will improve and we’ll be banned from accessing any creative content that was made less than 75+ years ago.

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