Culture

Whether free culture allowing all citizens to fully participate, or centrally owned/communicated/controlled culture, at the root of much of the debates are very different ideas on cultural policy.

Puretracks strikes out

Recently, a friend sent me a code that would enable me to download a single song at no cost from Puretracks.com. When discussing the junction between the digital world and copyright, I've often suggested that I would use a site like iTunes or Puretracks, if and only if they worked properly for me. Since I would be spending play money rather than my own real money, I decided to give it a whirl!

First and foremost, their web user interface isn't the shiniest penny in the bunch. There were a number of instances where I could swear I put a track into my basket, but when I followed the link to my basket, it was not there. Refreshing the page didn't help either, the only solution was to navigate to the shopping basket page via the "my account" page.

Captain Copyright! -- where is the love?

(Also published by p2pnet)

John Degen posted his thoughts on Captain Copyright last week.

The character is silly, dumb, over-the-top and even, dare I say, derivative (in the critical sense). And I love him. I have a Captain Copyright sticker on my laptop... and I had vowed to never put a sticker on my beautiful little computer, but this guy is too great. He is way cooler than Elmer the Safety Elephant. I hope someday he too gets his own flag.

In the past few weeks I have been thinking why I felt such negative emotions about Captain Copyright taking flight. Here is my thinking, and I'm curious to read what other people have been thinking, and why they love or hate Captain Copyright.

Twilight on the Spanish Main: Is 'piracy' gone?

It's the pirate's sunset. The outbreak has been contained. Perhaps the industry has realized their mistake? How long will it take for our representatives in Parliament to get the memo?

Today, the head of the RIAA has declared that illegal downloading is "contained". The heads of the industry have now recognized that providing music on-line is a growing market (a 77% increase, this year). The rate of decline in CD sales seems to be much slower at 3%. I seem to recall that CDs were seeing the same rate of decline in previous years.

Heritage Minister Oda addresses the Banff World Television Festival

A Toronto Star article by Vinay Menon includes:

At 4:30 yesterday, Bev Oda, minister of Canadian heritage, addressed the delegates.

She discussed how technology is reshaping the broadcast industry. She said the CRTC will study these changes and compile a comprehensive report, due Dec. 14, that will help create future policy.

Before the speech, some delegates expected to hear Oda say something — possibly ominous — about the CBC. Instead, she said this:

"Regarding our public broadcaster, as the minister of Canadian heritage, let me assure you that this government does support CBC/Radio Canada ... it will remain Canada's official broadcaster in both official languages."

This generated the first (and only) applause. The rest of her speech could be boiled down to this quote: "The status quo is not good enough."

Highlights of a speech by Karen Kain, Chair, Canada Council for the Arts

A Government news site gave highlights of a speech by Karen Kain, Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, at the Art Gallery of Alberta on Monday, June 5, 2006. The majority focused on federal funding for the arts that was part of the May 2 federal budget, but I found following interesting.

"We must be in step with the evolution of artistic practices and the cultural development of Canadian communities. We should have the capacity to anticipate important developments in the arts and the social and political environments that directly affect the arts. And we should continue to challenge the increasing commercialization of the arts and the tendency of the market to control cultural development."

I believe this speaks to the recent public letter from the arts community about Appropriation Art and the need to protect artists from excessive control over their creativity that has been proposed in various copyright reform proposals.

"Darknet" Book Reviewed by TidBITS

Adam Engst, editor of the venerable Macintosh mailing list TidBITS, has an excellent review of J.D. Lasica's new book Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation in this week's TidBITS edition. The book chronicles the legal struggles of average citizens who have been caught up in the United States by their copyright regime, struggling for what most would deem common-sense use of their purhcased media. The author explains the DMCA and other 'Content Cartel'-inspired legislation in the US and consequences of these laws, and could serve as an illuminating read for those considering changes to Canada's copyright regime. Engst writes:

Coalition of Canadian Art Professionals Releases Open Letter on Copyright

A press release from the Appropriation Art Coalition:

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Over 500 Art Professionals Call for Balanced Copyright Laws

Ottawa, ON – June 6, 2006 – Over 500 members of Canada’s art community have today released an open letter to the Ministers of Canadian Heritage and Industry calling on the Canadian government to adopt balanced copyright laws that respect the reality of contemporary artistic practice. Appropriation Art, A Coalition of Art Professionals, comprises artists, curators, arts organizations and art institutions who share a deep concern over Canada’s copyright policies and the impact these policies have on the creation and dissemination of contemporary art.

See also: Geist: Hundreds of Canadian Artists Call for Balanced Copyright, Slyck: Canadian Art Professionals Demand Copyright Reform, ArtDaily: Open Letter of Coalition of Canadian Art Professionals.

The book business is dead. Or not

A Globe and Mail article by James Adams documents some discussions around BookExpo, Canada's annual four-day celebration of books, that starts this Friday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

What I found interesting is that some authors have this same feeling of panic that the recording and motion picture industry have about the Internet harming their businesses, even though there is even less evidence of any problem. While some incumbent methods of production, distribution and funding may give way to innovative alternatives, and this might harm the business interests of intermediaries dependant on the old way of doing things, there is little evidence that any of these industries have reason to be fearful.

No password required

An anonymous "Readers Write" posted their thoughts as a reply to an article I wrote suggesting "that both the educational community and the collective societies have got it wrong".

Wow. And I was beginning to think no one would get it.
...
When I enter the software market intending to develop competent products as a means to put food on the table, I will be glad to know that I have coworkers who share my views. Until I read the article above, I had never seen a sane proposal for dealing with the conflicting viewpoints of "free information" and "I want to get paid to make this stuff." I hope these ideas continue to proliferate and that the online revolution continues to grow.

More on Captain Copyright

Personally, I'm quite impressed that someone has taken the time to help teach children about copyright concepts. Since these concepts embody some of the rules that assist us in our exchange of creative ideas, they should be explained to children in a clear, balanced manner.

There are a number of errors of omission in the lessons on the site. The teacher's notes to Activity 4 do not explain Private Copying. Perhaps a less controversial example (rather than music downloading) could have been used?

I'm also concerned if the discussion of things like Activities like 3 & 4 are valuable when teaching Grades 1-3. I'm not certain that children of this age can grasp the "world economic impact of copyright" (I'm still struggling with this question!). Perhaps discussion of artists and the role of art in our society might be a better form of introduction?

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