Bread and Butter Will Divide Them All

By Mind the Gap

A panel discussion I was part of a couple years ago at the Conference on World Affairs included a really enlightening (and only slightly tense) mixed-field copyright discussion. I found it especially provocative because it got things out of the music-only ghetto I'm usually sitting in. An MIT researcher sat at one end of the table--I believe they had arranged us along a spectrum based on how liberal our position on the issues at hand--and at the other extreme a writer for shows like HBO's Band of Brothers. Though the conversation was admittedly much more nuanced than I'm about to distill it down to, in brief, Mr. MIT wanted his work freely shared because he didn't feel the material could move forward and gain value without peer input and he personally didn't need it locked down in order to generate enough $$ to eat, put shoes on children, etc. That's how his field was designed, in fact. How "ready for the 21st century" of them. The TV copy writer felt exactly the opposite: when his work was shared, it was devalued, his children left barefoot. His field lived or died by such protections, he explained. After the panel was over, the TV writer and I had a side bar during which he patiently explained to me why I would feel differently about copyright when I was older.

As the Times quoted Christgau this morning: "If I've learned anything from cyberpunk fiction, and I've learned plenty, it's that worlds do not end, they change." I think there are also a few good songs about that. Recent cultural trends have shown a rise in people's interest in the quality and environmental impact of the food they consume and the products they buy. And if there's an upside to the downturn, it's perhaps that people are re-evaluating how they spend their time vs how much time they spend on earning that paycheck, leaving more room to pursue their true passions. I know we're all nervous about livelihoods and allowing talented individuals the space to train and create, but I wonder if the pro-am shifts that technology is facilitating in many areas may be shifting general public perceptions about the arts faster than those of us entrenched deeply in the pro fields even realize. If we're looking at the spectrum of who is a professional, who is an amateur, and who is pulling in the same direction on a lot of the creative rights issues before us, I suspect that for most the biggest sorting factor will come down to simply how the rent is currently getting paid. Will that end up being a problem? What current problems might that help solve?

July 21, 2010 2:52 PM | | Comments (0) |

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