The Myth Of Originality...

from the it's-not-what-you-think dept

Nina Paley alerts us to a neat writeup (with illustrations) that she did, discussing the concept of originality, and why it's so often misconstrued. First, things that many people think are "original" usually aren't very original at all. They tend to be derivative in some way or another -- a point that we've made here many times. And yet, many people seem to think that there's some sort of objective standard for originality, and that something that involves a direct copy of something else as part of the process can't count as original (though, they conveniently ignore it when "the greats" like Mozart or Shakespeare did a direct cut-and-paste type of copying in their own works).

Paley then goes on to make a second point: which is that the traditional gatekeepers of culture, for all their talk of the importance of originality (whenever they talk down any kind of copying) are actually more likely to stomp on anything truly original, because there is no "proven market" for it. A movie has to fit a certain formula. A hit pop song must meet a series of pre-programmed conditions. No originality allowed.

So where is originality really? It's not an intrinsic value in the work, but in the perception of how people view a work. I find things like Kutiman's music tremendously original and unique, but in the comments here, critics have decried his efforts as "cut and paste copying" of little value. So different people have different takes on originality. Why should we set in place laws that enforce some sort of official standard on what is, and what is not, original, when it's our own perception that really determines what is original?

Separately, Paley recently also put together this neat short film that does a nice job of demonstrating that all artwork is derivative:


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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 8:09pm

    "Separately, Paley recently also put together this neat short film that does a nice job of demonstrating that all artwork is derivative: "

    So all artwork infringes on copyright. Now pay me something.

     

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    a fan of Nina Paley, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 8:49pm

    Wonderful

    I absolutely love her stuff. Keep up the good work Nina!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 9:12pm

    Thief! Pirate!

    She copied those images! Thief! Pirate! Somebody call the feds!

     

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    step back, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 1:58am

    New Dead Sea Scrolls

    I just came back from an archeological dig in the Middle East where we had found a newly discovered scroll that, as you unroll it, shows exactly the same thing that Nina's alleged original flash dance video shows.

    Her whole video is unoriginal.

    And now that "it is written" (2 paragraphs above) it becomes its own indisputable truth.

     

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    Ambrose, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 3:16am

    The Original meaning of "Original"?

    When I was studying Chaucer, I was taught that "original" used to mean "based on one of the old stories", and so it used to mean the opposite of what it means now.

     

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    Tom Landry (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 5:30am

    I've been in countless debates both in art college and in real-life™ but Nina aces what I think is the best description of what art "is" in few sentences:

    Art gives others a chance to see .... reality reflected back at them, and if they recognize it – if it reflects what they already know – they will love it. When art really succeeds, it merely expresses what we already know, but didn’t know we knew. Art gives language to thoughts we share. Once it’s language, it can spread and grow and be built on. Art is useful to ideas. It embodies them – gives them bodies, legs to walk around on their own.


    sublime.

     

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      KeillRandor (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      This, of course, goes all the way back to Aristotle's Theory Of Art:

      Any art we create - (story we tell) - merely reflects the experiences of its creator(s) back upon them.

      You'd think that we'd fully understand all this stuff by now, wouldn't you? But you'd be wrong - and there would be a VERY good reason WHY!

      Unfortunately, this reason is what I'm currently trying to write a paper about at the minute, but I need help, since I'm not an student or have any academic background, and it really needs to be a 'proper' academic paper - but it's SO simple and fundamental, it's almost funny that it hasn't been realised before now...

      (We're talking (potentially) the most important English language paper ever, and (potentially) one of the most important language papers of all time... - (And no one seems to be interested in helping me :( ).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 6:33am

    it is very typical of techdirt to try to make points by going to extremes. there is plenty of space between outright copy and inspiration. a mazda miata is inspired by 60s british sports cars but is not a copy. sorry but this video is a fail.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 6:57am

      Re:

      And we're not talking about the finished product being an exact copy of something that came before.

      Your point is moot.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 7:00am

        Re: Re:

        *and we're not saying that the finished will be an exact copy of something that came before, only that it reuses the ideas behind it.

         

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 8:25am

      Re:

      There's nothing extreme here what so ever.

      "New" simply restates, builds or extends on what came before it whether it's literature, art, music, science or whatever field you want to examine.

      Having an idea is rarely "original" as in spanking, shiny and new it's built on something the person who had the idea already knew. Nor is it useful to that person or anyone else until there's some expression of an idea be it a story, painting, song, theory or what a bit of software can do.

      If it's an argument for or against anything it's an argument against eternal copyright or patents or the notion one can patent, for example, an idea with no accompanying expression of the idea or invent something with no expression of what the invention is.

      Indeed, Thomas Edison borrowed, stole or pirated the vast majority of "his" inventions from others. His genius wasn't so much as coming up with a totally original thought it was in seeing better ways to express ideas the currently existed.

      ttfn

      John

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 8:56am

      Re:

      a mazda miata is inspired by 60s british sports cars but is not a copy. sorry but this video is a fail.

      Ahh, so Mazda invented the original wheel? And here I was thinking they *copied* that idea.

       

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 8:05pm

      Re:

      "there is plenty of space between outright copy and inspiration"

      Indeed, that gray area is precisely the point.

       

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      Hephaestus (profile), Mar 7th, 2010 @ 6:38pm

      Re:

      "a mazda miata is inspired by 60s british sports"

      Bug eyed sprite???

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 8:06am

    I can't find her dissertation on the file sharing networks, and I'd like to derive from it so I can earn an unoriginal graduate degree.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 8:09am

    Upload your term and thesis papers to uTorrent, and then download anything you want.

     

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    Richard (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 8:58am

    Amazing isn't it

    Amazing isn't it how the copyright advocates come down hard on sampling and other derivatives of works currently in copyright but when they themselves do something (relatively - or in some cases completely) uncreative with a public domain work they immediately claim a new copyright for themselves and effectively "lock up" the public domain work.

    Examples of this include:

    Taking a two dimensional photograph of a two dimensional painting.
    http://techdirt.com/articles/20090713/0203135526.shtml

    Editing an old musical score to make it accessible to modern musicians.
    http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/judgmentsfiles/j2636/sawkins-v-hyperion.htm

    Transl ating a public domain work into another language. Or even updating an existing public domain translation to elimininate obsolete words etc.
    http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/21st-Century-King-James-Version-KJ21-Bible/#copy



    N one of these activities is in the least bit creative - when the author/photographer/translator has the avowed aim of reproducing the old work as accurately as possible, making any originality a negative - yet that never seems to stop them....

     

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 8:14pm

      Re: Amazing isn't it

      This is why we need upvotes here.

       

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        Hephaestus (profile), Mar 7th, 2010 @ 6:42pm

        Re: Re: Amazing isn't it

        You are right we need to be able to rate the articles, the comments, and commenters.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 7:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: Amazing isn't it

          You are right we need to be able to rate the articles, the comments, and commenters.

          Why?

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 12:50am

          Re: Re: Re: Amazing isn't it

          I somewhat agree. Anyone who wastes comment space to say only "Hooah!!!", posts blank comments, double posts and questions not pertaining to the topic such as "Are you a Blonde?" are a little annoying. Then there are those who suggest people that they should post as "Lobo Santo's Ugly Goldfish's Mother" or my personal favorite, "look over here something shiny, something shiny, dont pay attention to the article I am here to distract you."

          Should certainly be put on a list to have their papers checked.

          I'm not your father, and maybe you just had a string of days and comments where you posted drunk or something.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 10:12am

    Lotsa statutes of Mary and Jesus.

    Michelangelo created La Pieta. How unoriginal.

    Wait...it is not the "idea" but how it is "expressed".

    Heck, maybe Michelangelo did do something original.

     

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    Hugh Mann, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    The video is very clever and entertaining. "Original"? Well, that particular expression seems to be. But the idea of doing stop-motion animation to make inanimate objects appear to move is certainly not new. The work certainly seems transformative - doing something new and unexpected with previous works. I'm sure none of those original artists expected to see their creations dancing. But, first, I'm not sure this "demonstrates" anything, much less that "all art is derivative". It certainly demonstrates that THIS work is derivative and/or transformative, but it's not clear that it automatically applies to all other art works. Second, this work really does seem to be quite a step beyond mere copy-and-paste exercises or so-called "sampling" efforts in which an artist seems to effectively say, "hey, I'm writing a song, and I like that series of notes written by that other guy in that song that did so well, so I'll just use them in my song, too!" So, while I agree that this particular work demonstrates the positive aspects of derivative works, I'm not so sure I agree that it actually proves its own assertion about art in general, nor that it at all supports much more mundane copying. HM

     

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      Richard (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 11:22am

      Double standard

      I'm not so sure I agree that it actually proves its own assertion about art in general, nor that it at all supports much more mundane copying.

      Maybe the point of the argument is not very clearly framed here however the problem I see is that the advocates of IP in general and copyright in particular seem to have a double standard.

      When the question is "is this derivative work sufficiently transformative (of a public domain work) to get its own new copyright" then they seem to want to set the bar incredibly low. (For example from the last link in my comment above substituting archaic words using the dictionary and updating capitalisation and punctuation - resulting in a work which differs from the public domain original by less than 1% seems to be regarded as enough.)

      However, when the question is "is this derivative work sufficiently transformative (of a copyrighted work) to not need permission" then the bar is set very high.

      The standard for these two should be THE SAME since a public domain work should be regarded as a work owned by the public

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

        Re: Double standard

        I don't think many would argue the the Alice in Wonderland Hollywood film is not a derivative work just be the book is in the public domain.It a really laughable argument.

         

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      vivaelamor (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

      Re:

      'I'm not sure this "demonstrates" anything, much less that "all art is derivative".'

      I'd be interested to know what works you consider to be entirely non-derivative.

       

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        Hugh Mann, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 11:45pm

        Re: Re:

        Fair question. However, I think the idea here is more related to the difference between (a) "derivative" in the copyright sense which generally means to start with essentially a copy-and-paste from Work A, and use that to then create Work B (where Work B has its own creative elements of expression as well), and (b) "derivative" in the more sociological/anthropological sense of the word, in which ideas and themes which have been used before form the basis for new works, without necessarily lifting any specific elements of expression.

        So, there may be some gaps in the conversation here based purely on semantics.

        In any case, either way, I'm not sure that this video demonstrates that "all art is derivative" in either sense. It's a logical fallacy. There is a big difference between saying "I have created a derivative work" and "because I have created THIS derivative work, I have therefore demonstrated that all art is derivative."

        However, that aside, I do tend to believe that all art is probably derivative (in the sociologial sense of building on themese and ideas that have come before, rather than necessarily copying specific examples of someone else's creative expressoin) to some degree.

        By the way, the copyright in a derivative work only applies to the new creative expressoin. You can't lay your own copyright on top of someone else's. So, if someone updates the language in an old (public domain) story, those elements of the old story can still be copied by others. However, the new elements are subject to copyright. So, if you copy the whole thing, you are copying both public domain material AND updated copyrighted material - and THAT is what gets you in trouble.

         

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          vivaelamor (profile), Mar 7th, 2010 @ 2:30am

          Re: Re: Re:

          'There is a big difference between saying "I have created a derivative work" and "because I have created THIS derivative work, I have therefore demonstrated that all art is derivative."'

          You're being contrary because you don't recognise the difference between demonstrated and proved? It might be the time to point out that the question of whether all works are derivative lacks falsifiability anyway. You may as well look for proof that there isn't a god.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 11:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Fair question.

          Then why not answer it?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 4:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Then why not answer it?"

            Probably because, despite his claims, he can't find any such examples.

             

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          Richard (profile), Mar 7th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          By the way, the copyright in a derivative work only applies to the new creative expressoin. You can't lay your own copyright on top of someone else's. So, if someone updates the language in an old (public domain) story, those elements of the old story can still be copied by others. However, the new elements are subject to copyright. So, if you copy the whole thing, you are copying both public domain material AND updated copyrighted material - and THAT is what gets you in trouble.

          In theory this sounds fine - however in practice what happens is that people try to create a thin "layer" of "new" expression across the whole of a public domain work (eg by taking a photograph) and thereby lock up the whole thing.

          Also in the case of the 21st century King James version of the bible I don't see them claiming copyright on the new bits (a few words and pieces of punctuation of questionable creativity) I see them claiming copyright on the whole thing.

          Now if I took a book currently in copyright, made such trivial changes and tried to claim it for myself like that I would really be in trouble.

          There is a double standard here and that is the problem.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 4:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Fair question. However, I think the idea here is more related to the difference between (a) "derivative" in the copyright sense which generally means to start with essentially a copy-and-paste from Work A, and use that to then create Work B (where Work B has its own creative elements of expression as well), and (b) "derivative" in the more sociological/anthropological sense of the word, in which ideas and themes which have been used before form the basis for new works, without necessarily lifting any specific elements of expression.

          Did you really think the claim was that all art is "derivative" in the legal, copyright sense (which would make all art infringing)? Seriously, that's what you thought?

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 1:19pm

      Re:

      But, first, I'm not sure this "demonstrates" anything, much less that "all art is derivative". It certainly demonstrates that THIS work is derivative and/or transformative, but it's not clear that it automatically applies to all other art works.

      Okay then, please give us some examples of art that is completely original and doesn't make use of anything that went before it.

      Waiting...

       

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        nasch (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:33am

        Re: Re:

        Hugh Mann's point is "p does not prove q", where p is the video and q is the assertion that all art builds on what went before. That is not the same as saying q is false.

        I agree with him, this video does not prove that all art is derivative, and I don't even think it gives examples of that. It's an awesome video, but unless you show that one art work came later than another one and from a culture or place accessible to the later artist, it's just a bunch of artwork. It can't really demonstrate derivation. What it does do (sort of, it's kinda fast) is show similarities of artwork even across cultures and times. This is another interesting point - even without building on what came before (ie the ancient Greeks didn't know about what the ancient Chinese were doing), people will come up with similar ideas.

        With all that said, I can't offhand think of any way it would be possible to really demonstrate that all art is derivative. But I believe it to be so.

         

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    Nina Paley, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 11:12am

    Background on the animation

    Please read this for some background on the why and how of the animation.

    Excerpt: "Copyright control extends not just to verbatim copies, but to "derivative works." This has led to censorship on a grand scale. For example, the seminal German silent film "Nosferatu" was deemed a derivative work of "Dracula" and courts ordered all copies destroyed. Shortly before his death, author J.D. Salinger convinced U.S. courts to censor another author who transformed his characters...." link

     

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      Richard (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 11:49am

      Re: Background on the animation

      Nina, for me, this passage from your linked post is the key.

      Or maybe the copyright maximalist would say this movie is creative, because I only photographed non-copyrighted works. But why should the legal status of the work I'm building on have anything to do with how "creative" my work is? The maximalist is working for the day when all works are copyrighted, and all culture is property. No longer shall anyone be able to build on works from the past, be it 5 minutes or 5 millennia ago.

      It's the double standard, you can get a new copyright on an old work (or at least claim it and dare anyone to challenge you) for almost no creative input (in fact in some cases for exactly zero creative input).

      On the other hand if you start from a work that is in copyright then you either have to ask permission (risky) or make such a transformation that it is impossible to detect your work's origins.

       

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    fuzzylogue, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 11:19am

    On the Myth of Originality

    Hold on now-that "all creative work is derivative" has always been an obvious and generally accepted view of human creativity. So, you are saying nothing new.

    Recombining the the "ideas seeds" or "idea elements" or "ideas atoms" or whatever you might want to call them in order to create a more unique work is where creativity lives.These smaller elements are almost always universal experieces shared by all cultures.

    The structuralist movement of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) tried to codify this concept into a new way of looking at this.It degenerated into other views because it tried to explain,again, a simple intuitive concept. Nothing is new under the sun.

     

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      vivaelamor (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 1:27pm

      Re: On the Myth of Originality

      'Hold on now-that "all creative work is derivative" has always been an obvious and generally accepted view of human creativity. So, you are saying nothing new.'

      Doesn't the first sentence make the second redundant? Seriously though, I think you're missing the point. What Nina is trying to get across is exactly what you say, for the reason that people are ignoring the obvious.

      Take the word 'free' for example. It is considered a given by anyone who has tested the concept of gratis that cost is always connected somewhere. Despite that we still have the saying 'there is no such thing as a free lunch', because it makes the point that cost is often hidden and easily forgotten.

      When people talk about original works, it is easy to forget the subjective nature of the word. In Nina's piece she gives the example of someone labelling Michaelangelo as 'wholly original' which lacks qualification as well as suggesting that his originality was absolute. I don't think anyone would complain that the word is used, but unless you say why something is considered original then there is little meaning to the word.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 1:31pm

      Re: On the Myth of Originality

      Hold on now-that "all creative work is derivative" has always been an obvious and generally accepted view of human creativity. So, you are saying nothing new.

      Yes indeed. It would be rather ridiculous to make an argument that all work is derivative and have that be absolutely new, wouldn't it?

      Yes, even this discussion is derivative. Which is sorta the point...

       

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 11:22am

    nosferatu

    actually it was the dead mans wife who had control of the work went to court and got that ruling and then BECAUSE of her
    all the KNOWN copies were destroyed , thankfuly some copies survived MOSTLY intack.

    ANOTHER fine example is that doctor who where parts of the 1st doctor who and 2nd and even some third regeneration doctors were intentionally destroyed rather then allow them to public domain....all we have now is a reconstructed video with still images and the BBC radio which of course went round the world and many made copies of and survived.

    THEN there was a fire that destroyed more works....
    SO when i pirate and you pirate are we making sure there is preservation of a work also?

     

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      Richard (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 12:11pm

      Re: nosferatu

      ANOTHER fine example is that doctor who where parts of the 1st doctor who and 2nd and even some third regeneration doctors were intentionally destroyed rather then allow them to public domain....all we have now is a reconstructed video with still images and the BBC radio which of course went round the world and many made copies of and survived.


      Point of strict accuracy...

      Actually they were destroyed because at the time videotape was expensive and the BBC had a policy of reusing it.

      The classic episode "Tenth Planet" was mostly over-recorded with a soccer match.

      It doesn't affect your point though... the BBC is now desperate to find someone who (strictly illegally at the time) recorded the episode....

       

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      Richard (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

      Re: nosferatu

      THEN there was a fire that destroyed more works....

      Not to mention the record company that used it's old 78 rpm master disks as hardcore in the foundations of its new HQ.

       

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    @richard

    not only do they then want the derivative under copyright but the public domain work as well...do not forget the recent canuck actions against conan users.

    Id actually if i had money love to trounce them in court hten ask for attorneys fees and then go for a civil aciton for pain and suffering they put me through as well as defamation and slander by way of saying im a thief , and infringer.

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 12:52pm

    @ richard again

    and there was intentional destruction for space and a fire
    please be accurate on both accounts much was lost due to both things.

    ONE being no back ups , nor public dissemination for the public domain and other simply cause they wished to make room for more money making things they can take out and reuse, thus the argument that its worth something then you destroy it on purpose is actually looking quite mean to people whom are poor and live more on public domains.

    IN other words we as a society LOST because of the corporate style greed mentality of copyright and CENSORSHIP and CONTROL.

    and nosferatos creator his wife was very vocal in her views that she wanted the movie destroyed. ITS very wel documented and didn't want her husband i gather being remembered looking like a scary Frankenstein troll


    its also proof we dont have time travel as someone would bring it back, in its entirety....
    :)

     

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    @richard btw

    the reason we have nosferato of any measure is because of EARLY pirates not someone keeping a legal copy as all copies were ordered by court destroyed

    think about that a court ordering culture to be destroyed.
    A court ordering knowledge to be destroyed
    A court ordering music to be destroyed


    knowledge you say? how films looked and sounded and were to begin with. HOW early horror genre got its start in video.

    and if it were so expensive why did enough copies exist to piece together literally 80-90% of the film......

     

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    Fippypopulosa (profile), Mar 6th, 2010 @ 4:55pm

    Not So Fast

    Nearly all of the representational art is derivative--I agree. However, there are always a few artists out there who invent something new. Maybe it's only once or twice a century but innovation does still happen in the arts. You just have to have eyes to see it.

     

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      vivaelamor (profile), Mar 7th, 2010 @ 2:40am

      Re: Not So Fast

      "Nearly all of the representational art is derivative--I agree. However, there are always a few artists out there who invent something new. Maybe it's only once or twice a century but innovation does still happen in the arts. You just have to have eyes to see it."

      Innovation is not originality.

       

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        ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 9th, 2010 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re: Not So Fast

        "Innovation is not originality."

        Huh? How can something innovative not be original?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 9th, 2010 @ 11:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

          I did not post the original statement, but I would think the answer to that would be consistent with Mike Masnick's early comments regarding innovation. Innovation is when you make a product people are willing to buy. New does not seem to factor in.

           

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          Michael Ho (profile), Mar 9th, 2010 @ 12:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

          "How can something innovative not be original?"

          Innovation is all about how you do it, not whether you were the first to do it.

          You can re-work the story of Dances with Wolves or Pocahontas... and make it a 3D movie with blue aliens... The story isn't that original, but the implementation can be innovative.

          Or you can look at the social network from ~1998, Six Degrees, and re-create it as Facebook... and be innovative by adding more features.

          Or when there are already a handful of search engines, start up another one that presents results in a simple, uncluttered way...

          Being first isn't as important as being better...

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 9th, 2010 @ 1:26pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

            On the other hand...

            "You can re-work the story of Dances with Wolves or Pocahontas... and make it a 3D movie with blue aliens... The story isn't that original, but the implementation can be innovative."

            It seems as though few people were really that impressed with the plot, but a lot of people were impressed with the implementation which seemed to be quite new...

            "Or when there are already a handful of search engines, start up another one that presents results in a simple, uncluttered way..."

            Indeed, the simple, uncluttered way was new in people's experience, and they gravitated to it because the new engine was not only new, but better...

            "Being first isn't as important as being better..."

            But, if you are first with your implementation, and it contains new features, and it is better as well...

             

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            ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 9th, 2010 @ 4:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

            Yeah, I get the invention vs. innovation thing, but isn't innovation original by definition?

            In other words, is the second guy to implement a business plan ever innovative? (assuming it wasn't an 'independent innovation,' as it were.)

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2010 @ 6:22am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

              ChurchHatesTucker:

              Every single definition of "innovation" I see on the internet includes the word "new." Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

              Innovation is a new way of doing something or "new stuff that is made useful".[1]

              [1]^ McKeown, Max (2008). The Truth About Innovation. London, UK: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0273719122.

              If there is no new, somewhere, there is no innovation.

              So, thinking logically, let us see if we can the question as to whether a second guy to implement a business plan can ever be innovative.

              If the second guy does exactly what the first guy did, the answer has to be "no." After all, the second guy did nothing "new" or "different," the second guy just copied what the first guy did.

              Now, if the second guy changes anything, i.e., does something "new," then he may be innovative. Of course, "new" does not necessarily mean "novel," which implies inventive, but it could be a derivative of previous models where the "new" is a different combination of features from one or more other business models, essentially making a "new" business model or optimizing an existing model.

              Think about Amazon's business model. Sell stuff on the internet. Nothing new about that. But, when you add in the breadth of their products, user reviews, stores, links to other products bought by users who bought the product you are looking at, ratings, multiple shipping options including free, and numerous other features, you suddenly realize that even though Amazon borrowed a lot from other business models in combination with several modest inventions of their own, they bring a ton of "new" to their model, which is the very definition of innovation.

               

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              vivaelamor (profile), Mar 10th, 2010 @ 11:02am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

              "but isn't innovation original by definition?"

              The words are not synonyms; you can say something is innovative that is far more derivative than original. It's all relative but my point was that innovation does not necessarily equate to something wholly original, which is the thrust of this article; no living artist can claim their works are absolutely original but they can say it is absolutely innovative.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2010 @ 11:40am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

                vivaelamor:

                I agree with you that something that is wholly or even mostly derivative can still be innovative. What is "new" in that case is that there is something in the combination that was previously not tried. Yes, everything was previously tried by someone, but not in this particular combination.

                As potential examples, how about Wal-Mart and McDonald's? While neither does a lot that is particularly original, they have combined elements that others have done and executed well. There is a lot of "new" in that. Some of the "new" is original. Much of the "new" is not original.

                How about a different question?

                Could a company that does absolutely nothing new, but executes well, be considered innovative? Is it the execution that is "new," and that is where the innovation is, or can a second company do the same thing as someone else and be successful without bringing anything "new" to the table? Are there any examples?

                 

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                  vivaelamor (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 1:24am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

                  'As potential examples, how about Wal-Mart and McDonald's? While neither does a lot that is particularly original, they have combined elements that others have done and executed well. There is a lot of "new" in that. Some of the "new" is original. Much of the "new" is not original.'

                  I think the issue is one of perspective. If you zoom in on that one aspect then yes you can call it original. I don't think anyone is suggesting that you couldn't do that, only that people have a tendency to ignore the perspective involved.

                  "Could a company that does absolutely nothing new, but executes well, be considered innovative? Is it the execution that is "new," and that is where the innovation is, or can a second company do the same thing as someone else and be successful without bringing anything "new" to the table? Are there any examples?"

                  If a company does nothing new because they have copied another then I'd say that is emulating not innovating. If they develop entirely independently and happen to do the same thing then that is still innovation; in that case there would be two distinct origins. That would still not necessarily make anything wholly original because the very idea of a company is an old concept.

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:11am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not So Fast

                    vivaelamor:

                    "I think the issue is one of perspective. If you zoom in on that one aspect then yes you can call it original. I don't think anyone is suggesting that you couldn't do that, only that people have a tendency to ignore the perspective involved."

                    I am unsure of your point, but you are absolutely correct; sometimes you have to have the proper perspective to see the "new" or "original."

                    "If a company does nothing new because they have copied another then I'd say that is emulating not innovating. If they develop entirely independently and happen to do the same thing then that is still innovation; in that case there would be two distinct origins. That would still not necessarily make anything wholly original because the very idea of a company is an old concept."

                    You and I are in absolute agreement regarding emulation and parallel development. In the modern world, I think parallel development tends to happen less frequently than in the past because of the speed of communication.

                    As for "wholly original," there is literally no such thing. All "new" and "original" things are made of a percentage of that which is known and a percentage of "new."

                    The Nintendo Wii was "new" and "original" in many ways, even though it also had a lot that built on the past. But, we tend to focus on the original parts rather than the derivative parts when we talk about new or inventive products. Just because we focus on those parts does not mean that history had nothing to do with the development, but if we only had the historical elements, then we would have been emulating. The new parts is what expands our knowledge.

                     

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      JEDIDIAH, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 6:44am

      On the subject of originality.

      You can easily tell who is doing something original. Just see who is being ridiculed by the current artistic establishment. This works for engineering and science too.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2010 @ 5:55pm

    The human form, in various states of sculptural position, is most certainly not a cross-cultural facsimile. Nina Paley's world seems a dialogue among her influences of cynics and absolutists; of a detached and vociferous imposition that "all" of something "is" as they perceive it, with the well-connected insulations to inform "all" who "are" not themselves of it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 12:08am

    Poor Nina, still tirelessly and desperately trying to convince people that "inspired by" and "derivative of" are the same thing, an endeavor more than a little reminiscent of the other side trying to equate "infringement" and "theft".

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 8:58am

      Re:

      Poor anonymous coward, still disparately clinging to the myth of originality.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 10:30am

      Re:

      Andy Warhol was inspired by soup cans and then he made derivative work of said soup cans.

      How original!

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2010 @ 11:43am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah. I have never seen anything original in Andy Warhol's work. Everything he does is derivative. Not a whit of originality. Why people think he is so great is beyond me.

        How do I do a "sarcmark" here?

         

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    Ross Nicholson, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 1:20am

    Originality

    Nobody has gotten into trouble stealing originality from me, not yet. I have not yet been invited to create a sequel for Avatar, for instance.

    --
    Author: OF LOVE ASIN B0030MIG24 Hillary's Angel ASIN B002TSB0ZU
    Coined Inclusive concept from math term.
    Proposed mecamylamine drug trials ($100-200 million/yr to USF), LightsOnTampa! Floating Riverwalk WaterTaxi Crosstown Xway bridge to StPete w/rail link&airport for MacDillAFB.
    Developed pheromone cure for crime, addiction & perversion.
    Proposed GA's HOPE ScholarshipProgram (BrightFutures).
    Poems for DeadPoetsSociety (&sax solo), lyrics for "Light&Day" Spotless Mind
    Filming Star Wars was my idea
    Stories,characters,speeches & concepts (as TheForce,TheJedi,TheCode)AFewGoodMen,Aladdin,Alexander,AmericanBeauty,AmericanPresident,Apocalypto,A rmageddon,AustinPowers,Avatar,TheAviator,BacktotheFuture,Bandits,Batman,BeautifulMind,BenjaminButton ,BigFish,BourneIdentity(myhandprint),Braveheart,ABronxTale,BruceAlmighty,CastAway,CatchMeifYouCan,Ch arlieandtheChocolateFactory,ChroniclesofNarnia,CityofAngels,CrouchingTigerHiddenDragon,DaVinciCode,T heDayAfterTomorrow,DeepImpact,Elf,EnemyoftheState,EternalSunshineoftheSpotlessMind,FindingNemo,Forre stGump,GalaxyQuest,Gattaca,Gladiator,GreenMile,GoodWillHunting,Hellboy,Hook,IndependenceDay,IRobot,T heIsland,Jaws(styrofoamcup),JourneytotheCenteroftheEarth,Juno,LemonySnicket,LOR,LostinTranslation,Th eMask,TheMatrix,MeettheParents,TheMexican,MinorityReport,Munich,MysticRiver,MysticPizza,NationalTrea sure,NeverBeenKissed,NightattheMuseum,PassionoftheChrist,ThePatriot,PiratesoftheCaribbean,PrincessFr og,RaidersoftheLostArk,RemembertheTitans,RoadtoPerdition,RunawayBride,SavingPrivateRyan,Schindler'sL ist,ShawshankRedeption,Shrek,Signs,SimpsonsMovie,6thSense,SleepyHollow,SomethingAboutMary,SpaceCowbo ys,Spiderman,TheTerminal,300,Titanic,Troy,TrumanShow,Unbreakable,VforVendetta,VanillaSky,TheVillage, WagtheDog,WaroftheWorlds,WeddingCrashers,WhatWomenWant,WhatLiesBeneath,WildWildWest.MorningEdition,S impsons,TheVisitor,TouchedbyanAngel,Bones,Justice,House,Lost,Numbers,Kings,Fringe
    stophurricanes3wa ys,artificialgills,proteinsuperconductor

     

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    Jack Donaghy, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 2:06am

    If I was a company man, I would say you needed to watch the 30-Rock episode "Succession", but I wouldn't do that. It's on iTunes, or maybe not.

    Nonetheless, we Irish have a sense of humor, and thank you, for finding it, Marcus. To answer your question, no, it's not a bot. I'm a very serious Irish Man named Jack Donaghy, and sometimes my seriousness doesn't come through on this interwebs thing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 8:44am

    Why Bother?

    Fundamentally, since all art is derivative, which literally means it extends from what has been done before, then there can never be anything new and original. So, why bother creating any new art, which includes music, painting, dance, etc.? I do have to wonder at what point we went from creating original art to everything being derivative, but that is a separate question.

    In fact, since everything has already been invented that we will ever need, then invention is moot (faster-than-light drive and phasers have already been invented, we just do not know it yet). From this point forward we can just innovate what we need. Engineers should all choose a different profession because they are unnecessary. All invention is just a delusion of novelty.

    So the next time you see something that you think is new, it was already done by someone else, you are just adapting it to your need.

    Incidentally, there have been others in the past who have declared that it has all been invented and discovered, even going so far as to propose that the patent office was no longer needed because everything major had been invented. Others have declared that all major scientific discoveries have been made so scientists would just need to refine existing theories.

    Amazing how incredibly narrow-minded some people are.

    Of course, we have since demonstrated flight faster than sound, electronic computers, lasers, space flight, cell phones, and thousands of other technologies that did not exist when pundits declared that there could no longer be anything new under the sun.

    If we truly believe that everything, even in art, is derivative and there can no longer be anything new and original, maybe it is time for mankind to go extinct.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:22am

      Re: Why Bother?

      You're looking at it all wrong. Who cares if there is nothing new or original? So humanity should fail?

      Or we could embrace that originality isn't very original and keep going, you know, like we always have.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re: Why Bother?

        Or we could recognize that even though people build off what came before, it is exactly that, building FROM what came before, not merely adapting what came before.

        Question: If all art is truly derived, then how was there a "Star Wars"? Where did "Stranger in a Strange Land" "derive" from? Why is it that Pablo Picasso was considered to be a ground breaking artist? It seems like there are tons of examples of people who added something to art that was never there before. Inspired? Sure. Inspiration is a lovely thing. But how much "new" did they add as they went along?

        We could debate all day long over examples and just how new a particular art is, but as Mike Masnick has previously noted, just because I am impressed with "new" and "unique" does not mean others will. Some people consider The Beatles to be second-rate songwriters and musicians who adapted the music of others (the infamous derivation) rather than the talented experimental group that spawned dozens of genres. You choose.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 8:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why Bother?

          I choose the option that doesn't have copyright lasting centuries on the expressions of ideas.

           

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 10:05am

      Re: Why Bother?

      Fundamentally, since all art is derivative, which literally means it extends from what has been done before, then there can never be anything new and original. So, why bother creating any new art, which includes music, painting, dance, etc.?

      Apparently you missed the point. No one said that people would stop creating art if it's derivative. In fact, the point is quite the opposite. What often inspires people to create art is the fact that it's derivative.

      Incidentally, there have been others in the past who have declared that it has all been invented and discovered, even going so far as to propose that the patent office was no longer needed because everything major had been invented. Others have declared that all major scientific discoveries have been made so scientists would just need to refine existing theories.

      Again, no one is claiming that all art has been created or that there's nothing *NEW* or *ORIGINAL*. Just that even those new and original things are built on the inspirations found elsewhere.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 11:23am

        Re: Re: Why Bother?

        Mike:

        Derivative literally means within the scope of what came before.

        Your first point was that people might or probably would continue to create art even if it was derivative. That might well be true. However, other people might be disincentivized if they thought that nothing they did would ever be consider new or original.

        Your second point makes much more sense to me. I do believe that there are three broad categories of art:

        - That which is essentially a copy; e.g., a cover of a song, a repainting of the Mona Lisa, even a work based on the work of another, such as the gazillion "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" novels that exist (though even these could fall under the other categories).

        - That which is completely derivative; e.g., many novels fall in this category.

        - That which is a combination of derivation and new. Yes, the "new" and "original" part are built on inspirations found elsewhere, but, and this is a huge "but," that portion that is "new" and "original" is that which expands the envelope of human artistic expression and, more broadly, human knowledge.

        It is possibly true that those works that are a combination of derivation and new, or at least a sufficient amount of "new" to be noteworthy, are far less than works that are either copies and nearly all derivation, but thank goodness that we still see new and we generally know it when we see it.

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 3:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why Bother?

          Derivative literally means within the scope of what came before.

          Not within the realm of creativity it doesn't. Most of the definitions are similar to inspired by:

          http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&rlz=1C1CHMA_enUS323US323&q=define:deri vative+work&defl=en&ei=uIOVS4KYCYW1lAe1y9j7AQ&sa=X&oi=definer&ct=&cd=1&v ed=0CAQQowMoAA

          Your first point was that people might or probably would continue to create art even if it was derivative. That might well be true. However, other people might be disincentivized if they thought that nothing they did would ever be consider new or original.

          Why? Considering that -- as the post notes -- nearly all of human creativity is derivative in some form or another, I would think pretty much all of human history is evidence that this is not true. Or if there really are people who decide not to create because of that, they are grossly outnumbered by others, who believe that deriving from the works of others is a wonderful way to express themselves.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 6:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Why Bother?

            "Derivative literally means within the scope of what came before.

            Not within the realm of creativity it doesn't. Most of the definitions are similar to inspired by:"

            Am I missing something? I clicked on your link and all the definitions essentially were similar. I copied one of them...

            •A derivative work pertaining to copyright law, is an expressive creation that includes major, copyright-protected elements of an original, previously created first work.

            So, fundamentally, the scope of a derivative work would be within the scope of a previous works; i.e., the derivative portion is nothing new.

            "Your first point was that people might or probably would continue to create art even if it was derivative. That might well be true. However, other people might be disincentivized if they thought that nothing they did would ever be consider new or original.

            Why? Considering that -- as the post notes -- nearly all of human creativity is derivative in some form or another, I would think pretty much all of human history is evidence that this is not true. Or if there really are people who decide not to create because of that, they are grossly outnumbered by others, who believe that deriving from the works of others is a wonderful way to express themselves."

            In answer to your question of "why," there are different kinds of "artists," to use the term very broadly. Some artists pride themselves on expanding the scope of what it means to be human. In other words, they try to be new and unique. Yes, there are certainly derivative portions to their work, just as a space shuttle had nuts and bolts and pieces of metal, but there is also something new that never previously existed.

            I have to wonder just how derivative an SR-71 was when it first came out. I kind of have to wonder how original it still is, considering that it still holds some records. Sure, it has wings. Sure, it was made of titanium. But, unlike any aircraft that came before, and, thus far, unlike any that has been built since. The SR-71 was built outside the envelope of what man knew at the time, and thus had huge chunks that were not derivative. Great art there.

             

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