from the words-of-wisdom dept
It was only a short news update, but nevertheless an important milestone: Iceland's supreme court upheld the ruling that ordered Visa to start processing payments for Wikileaks again. In that post, we asked how long it would take for US diplomatic pressure to start changing Iceland's attitude, and Karl's answer became our most insightful comment of the week:
Hopefully long enough such that Wikileaks can recoup its operational costs... and continue practicing the free speech ideals that the U.S. is merely preaching.
I wholeheartedly agree. I made a decision a long time ago to use my mind to its fullest whenever I could. I'm not going to cover my eyes and pretend we don't live in a world where nearly everyone could have access to nearly every bit of culture and every idea for very little cost. We do live in that world now, and thinking anything less is exactly that: stupid.
For the editor's choice comments, we look to the important ruling that came out this week, declaring much of Richard Prince's appropriation art to be fair use. There was a lot of discussion in the comments about whether or not artists should ask for permission to use the work of others, and I wanted to highlight two excellent responses to the question "why not just ask?"
The first comes from an anonymous commenter:
Yes, it really is that hard to ask permission. Creativity is "of the moment" and if you waste time finding the name of the person who did the photo or whatever you're basing your work on, trying to find a phone number or email address or snail mail address to somehow contact them, then asking, then waiting patiently for the person you've asked to eventually get back to you and not bothering to act on your impulse because you might not get permission so it will all be a waste of time, you've lost the creative spark. And anyway, artists, who are usually rebels at heart, have never before had to do this asking permission thing that our current "Mother, May I?" society seems to be moving towards in all of human history, so it does seem to throw a monkey wrench into the machinery to suddenly demand that asking permission must part of the creative process.
Yes, let's look at Weird Al, I do love the guy, but he runs into vexing problems with permission all the time: an artist will suddenly made believe he didn't give permission because of embarrassment (Amish Paradise), or a well-meaning agent or assistant of a famous star tell him he's going to ask and then not bother to ask, then tell him she said "no" (there was a very annoying bit of a brouhaha with a Lady Gaga song where Al released the song without permission and only got permission when she heard it later.) Also, Weird Al is famous and 99.9% of all artists are not famous at all and will get the brush-off and completely ignored from the very first "may I?" on.
Plus, sometimes people who are established believe, true or false, that it is not in their financial interests to encourage very talented people who are NOT established, and established artists refusing to give permission for works that have entered the culture and pinged with talented people is a great way to stagnate your culture. If American artists had refused to let the Beatles creatively work off of American songs, we'd have had no British invasion. Conversely, if the Beatles had refused to let American and other British artists creatively work off of their songs, we'd have had no great music revolution of the 60s. If Paramount had clamped down on the fans who gave conventions and wrote fanfiction in the early 70s (as I'm totally sure they'd have done in today's legalistic climate), there'd have been no great Star Trek cash cow for them to milk to this day. Because nobody asked nobody for permission back then, they just *DID THINGS* and everybody prospered.
So that is what's wrong with getting permission. And if an artist is denied, moving on to something else can be a problem, because sometimes creativity drives itself, and it's going to get expressed one way or another, with or without permission.
And the second comes from Malsperanza:
There's a long, nuanced and interesting answer to this question. Much of it is contained in the amicus brief attached to the appeal, which is well worth reading.
The short answer is:
a) Artists who do ask are often denied permission. Copyright was never meant to be used as a tool of censorship, or to suppress other, new creativity, but that's what happens.
b) "Steal" is a loaded and inaccurate term. Since the beginning of time artists have used, reused, modified, and built upon one another's work. To use the famous example of Manet's Olympia, the painting could not exist without Titian; Titian in turn "stole" from both Raphael and Raimondi; and Raimondi "stole" from an unknown classical Roman sculptor. That's how creativity works. It cannot function in a vacuum. It cannot thrive in a permissions culture.
Of course, the real question is not why they shouldn't get permission, but why they should. Speech should be as free as possible by default.
You could say that the CEO is being...
For second place, we head back to the Richard Prince ruling, where another anonymous commenter laid down the law:
Artists shouldn't steal from other artists, ever. All artwork should be 100% original, all the time, or else art will surely die.
And I should know because I'm a lawyer.
For editor's choice on the funny side, first we head to the news that Germany's Deutsche Telekom is tossing net neutrality out the window by throttling competing video and voice products on its network. Yet another anonymous commenter connected this with some other recent news:
Next Headline: Google announces its fiber service is moving into Berlin.
And finally, we circle back to the 1-800-
PATENTSCONTACTS post and give one more nod to Josh in CharlotteNC for a classic passage from a classic story, perfectly deployed. In response to the point being raised that the patent has been available to review since 2006, Josh nicely summed up just how much that's worth with some help from Douglas Adams:
"But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."
"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything."
"But the plans were on display ..."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a flashlight."
"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."
That's all for this week. See you tomorrow, and until then, don't panic.