The success of new media (such as the internet) to change our basic assumption to copyright and open up new potential creative activity led quickly to restrictive laws, which in turn have enabled commercial interests to take advantage of the medium and enter new geographic regions.
Cultural activities will in particular continue to be incorporated into the global market system, produced and sold primarily for their exchange value, this commodification is in turn leading to an even greater concentration of cultural industries whose profit orientation erodes regional and ethnic autonomy.
This debate will obviously run and run but one thing is clear, draconian copyright and patent law at the global level through the WTO won't benefit society in the long run but will stifle creativity and autonomy.
The Responses to the 2nd poster, printed on the 3rd are as follows:
Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler by Thomas Frank; Matt Weiland.
work: Matthew Fuller: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fig. 1: To what extent
do our gestures in visual culture get watered down, recuperated and sold
back to us?
Tony: I must respond directly to that; as much as I appreciate your comments, here you seem to miss the point. This project is aiming at getting a discussion going between the activists, artists, designers, writers, and academics, if such divisions really exist. There are already many projects and books on the subject of visual communication and social media, but i feel the cross over is missing, therefore this cannot be simplified into an 'on the street' or 'in the academie' debate.
Through the 150 people who receive the poster there is a good cross section of disciplines and ideas, that is what i am trying to tap in to. I am sure the project is not perfect and can be improved, but please lets move beyond whether i should have started it in the first place! so any constructive comments are very welcome. I would welcome outlines of the 'concrete manifestations' that you mention above.
say Nę: Karen Eliot
Then as now, the concept of plagiarism cannot be dealt with in isolation, it must be seen as a counter-action to the constant encroachment of banal media and consumer ethics in our everyday life, that is backed up by the destructive push of the free market. I am suggesting that a concerted attempt needs to be made to abolish traditional notions of ownership, especially the ones that support the ideology of consumerism.
Copyright and ownership laws: As the manuscript society developed it became common to attribute written tales to their source, a process continued today through citations in academic writing. But it was the printing press that made private ownership of knowledge possible, as it finally severed the connection between the creation and the transmission of knowledge. To plagiarise came to be seen as a serious breach of the society values, appropriating another person's ideas, once an essential means to keeping them alive, became the act of the kidnapper, a plunderer, a person without ideas. The effects of printed texts are somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, the explicit pointers to earlier texts reinforce the fact that knowledge is built communally, through the interactions of thousands of individuals.
While the fact that each idea can be labelled with the name of its maker has created the romantic myth that manifests itself in the arts as the figure of the brooding artist creating in solitude, and in the sciences as the individual inventor, the Nobel prize winner who sees what no-one has seen before.In our consumer society the opposite of plagiarism is originality. This in turn is liked to individuality; free individuals in our post industrial society express their originality mainly through acts of consumption. That is to say their status within society rises along with the speed in which they consume. The idea of the original is directly linked to privilege.
The original is viewed as superior to the copy - for example in the case of a first edition book commanding a higher price than the reprint or the original of a song is revered over the remix or re-release, from this perspective almost any hierarchy in our society is falsely justified.In societies with a fully developed mass media, the concepts of individuality, originality and creativity are largely subsumed into a single language known as style, given credence by the fashion, graphic and interior design industries.
The myth of the original: It has, been observed for some time that the myth of the individual discoverer of knowledge is exactly that - a myth. Such a perspective shows that traditional views of an event or act have been misleading when they have presumed that the individual unit - a speech or a written text, an individual hero, a particular battle or discovery - can be clearly separable from a larger continuing force or stream of events in which it exists. Computer mediated communication provides a totally different metaphorical message, one that can take theories of collaborative knowledge out of the realm of language and philosophy and stamp them indelibly in the consciousness of the entire society. The distinction between a draft, preprint, publication or reprint now turns into one set of information, merely modified by the author as he or she builds on the past and commitments from the new readership to keep ownership of ideas separate, it becomes more obvious that originality lies not so much in the individual creation of written or printed elements but in the performance of the whole composition.
As a story is woven, the orator is deeply embedded in a rhetorical and cultural context. His audience is physically before him, and he assembles his stories in a close engagement with both the audience and his characters, the tribal ground out of which his figure arises. The individual's reaction is not expressed as simply individual or 'subjective' but rather as encased in the communal reaction. On the other hand, certain kinds of machine become so totally divorced from rhetorical occasion that they cease to have any connection with human knowledge whatsoever. If we are to take on the positive aspects of the oral tradition beyond the printed page and into cyberspace, we need to be aware of this lack of contact. This means living a form of consciousness where knowledge exists outside the originator, embodied in a changing text, but still lived dramatically, and communally performed, as the myths of oral culture was performed. These effects can be seen to some extent in hyper text, undoubtedly an extreme example of text that is participatory.
The constructive process performed by any reader of any text find a very physical analogue in hypertext as each reader takes a different physical path from node to node and therefore rewrite the text in the process of reading it. Hypertext documents can be constructed as even more open systems, in which each reader is invited to become co-author by adding new nodes or new information within nodes. One of the most visible signs of the first transformation of consciousness was, as I have noted, the development of copyright laws to safeguard intellectual property. It is not difficult to speculate on what could happen to these laws if the computer really does change our attitude to knowledge.
Mechanical duplication, slow and expensive, has now become so very easy that copyright, in the sense of a prohibition on unauthorised copying, is virtually meaningless. Small software companies distribute their products as shareware; large ones have given up on copy-protection schemes and are hoping to make enough money on site licenses to corporations to make up for the rampant piracy of individuals. The sense of a single original - an author's draft, a frame of set type, a master copy; becomes increasingly difficult to sustain in an environment where every copy can spawn another copy at a keystroke, without loss of physical quality. In magnetic code, there are no originals. Thus copyright in the sense of securing the rights to a fixed entity is ending. The only sense in which copyright can continue to have meaning in electronic space is the sense of acknowledging an initial creator of an idea, as a moral obligation rather than as a fact of property. Electronic documents have not done away with the citation network, but these familiar gestures are beginning to mean something different in electronic space. To acknowledge percentage is not the same as to maintain a claim of ownership.
Without the sense of master-and-duplicate that the printing press imposed, there is no intellectual ground for present attempts to toughen copyright laws in order to protect intellectual property. Unfortunately, given the economic structure that has been painstakingly built on the back of print and it's specialisation, it will take more than a new attitude toward texts to stop knowledge being seen and used as a commodity. In fact, the very technology that has made certain aspects of replication so easy as to make old-fashioned copyright unenforcable, has simultaneously brought into existence new possibilities of charging by the byte for using information - a process known as information capitalism.
The patient in contemporary culture: The larger issue at stake here is about who actually owns contemporary culture. Mass production techniques, applied to digitally repeatable words, pictures and music, have resulted in a multitude of signs and symbols. To approach this exploding field with Renaissance-based ideas of the uniqueness of art is crippling. When we discuss ownership of an image are we still trying to hang on to this possibly outdated concept of uniqueness? Most of the imagery that surrounds us comes out of mediated and filtered material. Consciously or unconsciously, we are all influenced by what we see, hear or read, this is one reason why copyright issues are so fraught with difficulty. Continuously questions of who owns which reproduction rights are enormously controversial. When recently the Sistine Chapel was restored, the photographic company Fuji acquired the digital rights to any reproduction of the restored pictures.
The computer software giant Microsoft has been making a concerted effort to acquire exclusive rights to the digital imaging of most of the world's classic art treasures, with the view to sell them back at a later date. And in a more bizarre case, last year a new media company was awarded a patent that effectively declared it as sole inventor and owner of multimedia - not just the word, but the entire concept including any use of search and retrieval of text, pictures, audio and animated data, particularly when delivered on CD-Rom. Any multimedia system using "a plurality of entry path means which indicate inter-relatedness of information" was covered in the patent, which meant that anyone developing practically any multimedia application would have to pay for the privilege. The only item apparently not covered by the patent was text. Unsurprisingly in this case the patient was revoked after a serious challenge, not because it was seen as particularly unfair, but because it would hold back this profitable and booming industry.
Outside of the visual field there have been swift moves by the multinational biotechnology companies to patent the basic DNA of the human body claiming them to an invention. Previously this knowledge was held in an international data base called the "Human Genome Project" where it was freely accessible to any scientist in the world, as a part of our collective heritage. Over the past 5 years large parts of this data base have been patented, not only showing how close we have come to becoming commodities ourselves, but also raising alarming questions which threaten to change the very basis of scientific research. Only months ago the EEC has followed america's lead in granting the same ownership rights, after being heavily lobbied by more than 70 drug and seed companies, ruling that DNA ceases to be our property when it leaves the body. For many, the gene rush and the patenting of life is offensive, especially when whole communities are targeted like the tribes of the Solomon Islands patented on mass, and where a leading drugs company, has established exclusive rights to patent material taken from much of Costa Rica's forests, with no responsibility to recompense the inhabitants or the country.
Putting the moral question aside, these examples highlight the extent that copyright laws can be used in a negative and commercial sense, and the concept of plagiarism cannot be dealt with in isolation. Copyright ownership has become a means of establishing and maintaining the control over production, distribution, and communication of cultural expression. All people - as groups, communities, or individuals - possess the right to participate in the creation of their own cultures. The creating of cultural expression should be a social process open to all and it must not be abridged socially, economically, or educationally by another dominant culture. It is only through the creation of "unique identities" that commodification can take place, a process that visual culture and the media circus only know too well. Plagiarism is only found shocking by those who see individual genius as the ultimate justification of private property.
A more negative reading of the term plagiarism in our consumer society, is that there is nothing left to say, a feeling made more potent by new technologies with the theoretical access to all knowledge. The practitioners of much post modern theory have tended to proclaim this feeling rather smugly; but if there is nothing left to say, they yet demonstrate that there will always be something to sell. On the other hand there are practitioners active in many disciplines who recognising the necessity for collective action, and demand media such as film, music, internet and multi media, engage in plagiarism in an attempt to expose the inherent notions of genius and ownership.
Stealing the global market: The institution of intellectual property emerged with the dawn of industrial capitalism, with the first copyright laws passed in england in 1709. Lasting 50 years these copyrights at least ensured the work passed eventually into our access, the public domain. But the situation is once again on the move, recently copyright privileges have been extended to 70 years and this has been updated to include all new areas of production and reproduction. Now, hidden deep within the texts of WTO, GATT, NAFTA and EEC laws, are new more widespread restrictions that try and take into account all new digital media's. For the industrialised countries this new international intellectual copyright system will largely serve to protect the global corporations, and deny third world countries access to knowledge, block their capacity for innovation, and prevent any change in the hierarchical order.
The success of the new media's such as the internet to change our basic assumption to copyright and open up new potential creative activity led quickly to restrictive laws, which in turn have enabled commercial interests to take advantage of the medium and enter new geographic regions. Cultural activities will in particular continue to be incorporated into the global market system, produced and sold primarily for their exchange value, this commodification is in turn leading to an even greater concentration of cultural industries who's profit orientation erodes regional and ethnic autonomy. This debate will obviously run and run but one thing is clear draconian copyright and patent law won't benefit creators in the long run but will, stifle creativity and innovation.
Knowledge has been closely tied
to economics for so long that it will be difficult to dislodge, for every
move in economic gain there is a countermove. As mentioned before with
oral and print cultures. The internet has also created an information
breakthrough in access whilst, additionally opening up our own private
space to an increased amount of advertising and control, but rather than
sound despondent at this juncture, this is precisely the time at which
to explore new avenues and possibilities. The ideas told here are not
new, they didn't appear as if from nowhere, like every thing else around
us they arose from the collective activity of creating and recreating
the world... Plagiarism works, progress implies it.