The end or the beginning: Pros and Cons on Copyright
Yesterday, at StoryDrive, I was treated to a true piece of theatre. It was produced, I think, to have the maximum impact upon an industry having difficulty in coping with the tidal changes sweeping over it. And so, the message was clear: The concept of copyright is a concept under siege.
On the one hand, a gentleman from the Copyright Clearance Center interviewed he concept of Afrika Islam, a hip-hop mash up artist and producer. Also, he is a very popular DJ. Born in the Bronx in 1968, he is now a very rich man.
Afrika began by playing for us one of his works on his turntable. It contained music from other artists. Not a follower of hip-hop, I only recognized some Michael Jackson music. He described himself primarily as a mash-up artist.
The interviewer, a copyright lawyer had many questions for Afrika. Number one was— “Do you have any concerns about using other people’s work? “
Afrka’s argument was straightforward. “When I mash up other people’s music, I am creating something new and in the process once an artistic creation is out on the internet, it’s gone”. He did not really put it that way, but, in essence, that was his claim.
The interviewer asked him if he had ever been sued by another artist. Afrika maintained that he had been sued only once, over the use of the song “War” by Edwin Star. But, he said that the artists got together and settled it among themselves. No particular detail, but it seemed that they created something new together which satisfied everybody. All this was done without the intervention of lawyers.
The next question? “If, once it’s out on the internet, it’s gone” is true, how does an artist make any money? How does he or she get fairly compensated for the work? I didn’t find the answer too encouraging. Basically, he said that most people earned their money from public appearances and the sale of memorabilia such as T-shirts. Afrika is speaking from a musician’s point of view. What about all the writers who toil?
In a way, there is an irony here. If you put a “work of art” out on the internet, its fair game and anyone can use it for his or her own purposes. You won’t likely make money from doing this. But because you have spread your “work” far and wide through the web, you now can make the real money only from actually going out and performing. So, the Web allows you to reach people to interest them in your work, but at the same time, it undermines your work by devaluing it. By entering the global marketplace on the internet, you may lose control of your “work of art”.
Believe me—it’s a chilling message, not only for the artist, but for all those who have made their livings at publishing and publicity. And that is why the title is Where Content Knows No Limits.
But never fear! The industry is responding. Leaving the session, I passed a booth. I’m going back there today and so, perhaps, more later. The name of the company is Link-Busters, and the idea is to protect your digital media.