Copyright. The word itself evokes a vague meaning: does it truly regulate rights? Does it grant us the free right to put our creative ideas out there for “copy”? If people base their ideas/creations on the things that inspire them, is anything really original? And more importantly, how do we make something that’s inspired truly our own?
These are some of the wider issues that Lawrence Lessig discusses in his book, Free Culture. Studying different companies/art programs to see how they utilize their creative licenses, Lessig explores the idea of a “free culture,” which by his definition leaves “a great deal open for others to build upon”(30). So, if people are building upon each other’s ideas to create their own brand and style, how do they make it their own, something that has never been done before?
Simple, I think: you can’t. The law, as Lessig talks about, tries hard to regulate copyright issues and the lines have become more and more blurred, especially with this new digital culture with its Internet rules. Lessig states in the book’s Introduction:
“This rough divide between the free and the controlled has now been erased. The Internet has set the stage for this erasure and, pushed by big media, the law has now affected it. For the first time in our tradition, the ordinary ways in which individuals create and share culture fall within the reach of the regulation of the law, which has expanded to draw within its control a vast amount of culture and creativity that it never reached before. The technology that preserved the balance of our history–between uses of our culture that were free and uses of our culture that were only upon permission–has been undone. The consequence is that we are less and less a free culture, more and more a permission culture” (8).
Lessig continues on, claiming that we, as a digital/Internet culture, have the extraordinary possibility of building a unique culture that cannot be “protected” by any legal bounds or businesses. However, protecting is exactly what the government is trying to do by limiting our creative rights; hence the permission culture run down by powerful corporations. The Internet is its own culture of diverse people and ideas, and intellectual “property rules,” I believe, only restraint and limit our freedom of expression. Technology and the digital culture was made to be expressive, to leap bounds, uncover mysteries, etc. We should not be held captive within our own creative minds; and we should be able to share our ideas with the world. The government may be able to control how we act and participate within society, but it should not have its hands on our five freedoms. While I do think the copyright effect is valid and reasonable, I think that the digital culture has made it more difficult to truly “own.” Instead, rather than self-claiming everything, we should start a new culture of collaboration. Something to inspire, not to hide from, the masses. A digital culture of shared interests, ideas, and people to learn from one another and encourage a more collaborative, integrated world.
For more about public sharing, online licenses, and creative knowledge of new media, please check out CreativeCommons.org.