Marcia and I have chosen ‘Copyright’ as the first topic for our ‘He Says, She Says’ posts. As both a writer and photographer, copyright is something I’ve been aware of some years now.
According to Wikipedia, “Copyright is a form of intellectual property that gives the author of an original work exclusive right for a certain time period in relation to that work, including its publication, distribution and adaptation, after which time the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright applies to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete and fixed in a medium. Some jurisdictions also recognize “moral rights” of the creator of a work, such as the right to be credited for the work. Copyright is described under the umbrella term intellectual property along with patents and trademarks.”
The basic idea of copyright, going back several hundred years, was to provide incentive to those involved with research or intellectual pursuits with exclusive use of their ideas for a set time. Unfortunately, as time has gone on we seem to have largely forgotten that premise. Today copyright is more associated with protection, of the individual, of corporations, of ideas. We’ve gone beyond the basic idea of copyright as incentive, and become bound up with the litigious aspects instead. I’ll admit, I was as affected by this as anyone. After all, I made those images, I wrote those works, they were ‘mine’. Copyright was something I accepted as a matter of course.
This changed for me only recently. Last month I was at the 2009 Island Tech conference, and as part of the conference they held a series of TED-like talks with different speakers. All of the speakers were quite good, but the talk related most specifically to this subject was ‘Open Everything‘ byVancouver-based photographer, web strategist and author Kris Krug. Kris envisions the future as a more creative space, where everything is open. People today are communicating with each other more deeply and more creatively than ever before. Open source technology, whether hardware or software is shared by everyone but owned by no one. Open source is cheaper, more sustainable, and generally better, and with shared media consumers are also producers. This blog is an example of open-source in action. The site is created using WordPress, and the the plugins for WordPress are also open source.
I’d heard about ideas like the Creative Commons before, but I’d never given them much consideration. Self-protection ran too deeply perhaps. One thing that Kris said in his talk was that for today’s younger generation obscurity is more of a concern than protection. To young people today, ‘I am who you say I am’. It got me thinking about my own work. I’m not a professional photographer, although from time to time I have been paid to make photographs. I’ve had my professional writings published in technical journals, and my personal writings published in newsletters and the like. What I get most from this a feeling of satisfaction from someone appreciating my work. Besides, open source programming isn’t necessarily about having everything for free. Fee structures can be built in. It’s more about sharing, about cooperation.
After thinking this over a bit I changed the parameters to all of the photographs on our Flickr page from ‘All Rights Reserved’ to a Creative Commons license. People are welcome to use any of the images there for their own non-commercial work, although credit is appreciated. Besides, when someone wants a print or a larger/ higher-resolution version of a work, we can arrange payment then.
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