For years, we've talked about the importance of not letting historical cultural artifacts die out. Unfortunately, today's copyright law has a way of making sure that certain classic cultural works are locked up and hidden away
(which, of course, is exactly the opposite of what copyright is supposed to do). Similarly, in some cases mere adherence to tradition and pretension is locking up culture as well. So, for this week's awesome stuff
post, we've got three projects about reclaiming culture.
- First up, we've got the latest Kickstarter project from the folks at Musopen, Set Chopin Free. If you've been following this space for a while, you've probably heard of Musopen, whom we've covered before. The organization actually was a super early adopter of Kickstarter, focusing on raising money to record incredibly excellent recordings of public domain music, and then setting the recordings free as well (quick copyright lesson for those unfamiliar: anyone can record/play public domain compositions without licenses, but there's a separate copyright on any sound recordings that come out of it -- so most recordings of public domain music are still under copyright for the recording, if not the composition). After an early false start, Musopen had one of the first high profile Kickstarter successes, and now they're back for more. From the title, you can probably tell that the goal is to record all of the works of Chopin and release them for free.
They went with a fairly ambitious goal of $75,000 to do this, which was even more than Musopen raised last time, though that was in the early days of Kickstarter, before so many people were used to it. The campaign is almost there with still over a month to go, so they'll end up surpassing the goal by quite a lot by the time this is done.
- Here's a somewhat different one, where two guys in Italy are trying to buy up two rare mystery novels by J.S. Fletcher, with the plan to scan, ocr, correct, proofread and then release to the world the works so other scan read them. Of course, those works, "The Borgia Cabinet" from 1930 and "The Matheson Formula" from 1929 are not actually in the public domain in the US, though they are in much of the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, it appears that this campaign hasn't been able to get any attention at all, as it's raised a grand total of nothing (with a goal of $600). It doesn't look like the team behind this has really done much at all to promote it -- there's no video with the campaign (generally considered a necessity) and even the project description is very short and without details. It's too bad, because you'd think with a little imagination, they could convince people to support the project. Also, they don't offer anything for most of the tiers -- just a thank you. Part of what tends to make crowdfunding campaigns work, even when people are convinced to support a larger ideal, is that they get some unique benefit for doing so.
- Tragically, those appear to be the only projects on either Kickstarter or IndieGoGo (or a few other smaller crowdfunding platforms I checked out -- though there may be some elsewhere) that were attempting to make the public domain more accessible directly. However, for the third project, I thought this fit into the spirit of the above projects. It's a documentary called What Would Beethoven Do?, that takes a look how orchestras and classical music arts organizations, that have struggled to remain relevant (especially with younger audiences) are starting to learn how get beyond the stuffy reputation of classical music, and embrace new technologies, new media to become relevant again. I highly recommend the pitch video, which is quite well done:
On the funding side, unfortunately it looks like this one is lagging a bit. The filmmakers are looking for $22,000, but they've raised less than 20% of that with about two weeks to go. It'll be a challenge to make up that difference. I was a bit surprised to see that the cheapest level to actually get a digital download of the film starts at $50 -- which seems a bit on the steep side. I wonder if they would have been able to grab more backers with a more reasonable price point.
Either way, it's good to see people looking to make important cultural artifacts relevant and accessible again. It's too bad we don't actually see more of those kinds of projects these days.