[cc-br] Re: cc-br Digest, Vol 14, Issue 1

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Today's Topics:

   1. Movement Seeks Copyright Alternatives (Omar Kaminski)


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 02:53:34 -0300
From: "Omar Kaminski" <omark at bsi.com.br>
Subject: [cc-br] Movement Seeks Copyright Alternatives
To: "cc-br" <cc-br at lists.ibiblio.org>
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Movement Seeks Copyright Alternatives

Sun Oct 10, 1:35 PM ET
By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer

NEW YORK - Getting rights OK'd can be frustrating for artists, be they
authors seeking to quote an essay or documentary filmmakers who've got
snippets of pop songs playing in the background of key scenes. Artists and
scholars who believe the current copyright system unduly stifles creativity
are pushing a less restrictive alternative that they call the Creative

Driving the movement is the belief that we all benefit when creative minds
are free to expand upon others' work * that public discourse is hurt when
too much of it is weighed down by the baggage of commerce.

Adherents of Creative Commons are a varied lot. They include MIT, the
Beastie Boys, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, newspaper columnist Dan
Gillmor and the British Broadcasting Corp.

"The (Creative) Commons encourages sharing and makes explicit that
creativity depends on easy access to raw materials," said Siva
Vaidhyanathan, a New York University professor critical of current copyright
laws. "Right now, you have to assume you're going to get in trouble if you
quote from somebody extensively or build upon a previous expression."

The Commons is a response to Congress' gradual extension of copyright
protection, from the 14 years set in 1790 to today's 70 years beyond an
individual's death.

Consider "Class of '83," a low-budget documentary about classmates killed in
the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We shot in an auditorium where everybody came together and had the
children's choir sing the Bette Midler song `The Rose,'" said Tom Barger,
the movie's editor. "We had to cut most of that song out."

That's where the Creative Commons would help.

Think of it as "Copyright Lite," a compromise between the full protections
of copyright law and placing a creative work entirely in the public domain.

Under its framework, copyright holders can let others use their works for
free while stipulating limits * for instance, requiring attribution while
prohibiting sales. They can't veto individual projects * the way copyright
holders can now deny rights to filmmakers with whom they disagree.

Under the Creative Commons, a small-town orchestra with limited funding can
find pieces to perform for free. An independent filmmaker can search for
free footage of the New York skyline. A rap or hip-hop artist can rhyme over
snippets of songs without legal worries.

If "The Rose" had been in the Commons, Barger could have used the full clip
without having to spend time figuring out whether Midler or someone else
owned the song, then getting permission and paying any royalties. All he had
to do was find it through a searchable index at http://creativecommons.org.

Early backers of this Internet-based clearinghouse include the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (news - web sites), which contributed materials from
selected courses, and O'Reilly Media Inc., which shares electronic versions
of Gillmor's "We the Media" and about three dozen other books, many no
longer in print.

To make the anti-war documentary "Uncovered," producers spent roughly half
of their $200,000 budget * not to mention countless hours * securing the
rights to footage of President Bush (news - web sites) and other public
figures. They even had to remove a few clips when the copyright owners
denied permission outright.

Last month, the producers of "Uncovered" contributed the original interviews
from that movie and from "Outfoxed," a critique of the Fox News Channel, to
the clearinghouse. "Uncovered" associate producer Jim Gilliam said he wants
to help future filmmakers avoid having to navigate the legal terrain.

And in the November issue of Wired magazine, Byrne, the Beastie Boys,
Brazilian pop star Gilberto Gil and 13 other artists will release songs on a
CD meant for sharing.

The BBC, meanwhile, is looking to adapt the Commons' licensing structure for
the BBC Creative Archive, which will allow noncommercial projects to freely
use clips from well-known BBC television shows.

These high-profile offerings, though, represent just a fraction of the
estimated 5 million items in the Commons, whose funding includes $800,000
from the Center for the Public Domain, $1.2 million from the MacArthur
Foundation and $1 million from the Hewlett Foundation. The bulk is text such
as Web logs (which were already meant for sharing).

Gilliam acknowledges that he's not likely to find what he needs for future
documentaries in he Commons; there simply isn't much available from TV
networks and larger media outlets.

Thomas Goetz, the articles editor at Wired, said that for every artist who
agreed to participate, two more turned down the invitation "for whatever
reason. Some didn't get the idea. Some didn't want to take the risk."

Many copyright experts like the premise of the Creative Commons but question
its necessity.

It may be useful for smaller publishers without legal counsel, but "I don't
think there's any huge pent-up frustration on the part of the copyright
owner," said Allan Adler of the Association of American Publishers. "They
have the ability to do this through ordinary channels."

Occasionally, someone violates terms of the Commons license but major
battles over enforcement have yet to emerge.

The focus for now has been on encouraging artists to contribute material and
creating technology to help find it. Later this month, organizers will start
promoting reuse of items in the Commons to create new works, said Glenn Otis
Brown, its executive director.

Contributors to the Commons are largely driven by the philosophy of open
exchange, but they insist it is about much more than charity.

MIT courses have been translated into Spanish, Vietnamese and Mongolian, and
publishers have approached professors about book deals after seeing their
writings, said Jon Paul Potts, spokesman for MIT's OpenCourseWare.

Cory Doctorow contributed an e-book version of his first novel, "Down and
Out in the Magic Kingdom," and believes print sales improved as more people
heard about it over the Internet.

Gilliam welcomes any reuse * even for moneymaking projects that don't pay
him a dime.

"Every time someone takes a clip from `Outfoxed,' they have to attribute
it," he said. "That serves as a marketing vehicle."


Anick Jesdanun can be reached at netwriter(at)ap.org. 


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