“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Pablo Picasso

“Originality costs nothing. Think for your fucking self.” Bernard Pearson

Artistic tradition throughout the millennia has seen artists learn by copying other artists, passing techniques and processes down to the next generation who use them in their own way with their own voice. Payment was made for the application of their skills, with their reputations and previous work advertising their expertise. Patrons would pay for works to be delivered to them and for artists to have creative thoughts.

Art is a two way street. We experience it and we respond to it. Some people react emotionally, some intellectually, and some with their own artistic response. Whether it is painters appropriating techniques and brush strokes or composers creating themes on another’s work, history is littered with artists copying other artists.

Copyright as a law has existed for only 300 years, created with the intention of promoting creativity by granting legal rights to authors. These rights could be sold on for profit to publishers and distributors who held the means of production, a resource heavy industrial means of copying. They would exploit the rights to create physical copies and distribute them to make money from the artists’ original idea.

Throughout the 20th century, businesses formed on the back of gaining and exploiting these rights. Laws were amended to include music, sound recordings and films. Companies grew horizontally and vertically, built on creating works, owning the distribution rights and having the means to exploit them.

The copyright industry refers to those sections of the industry concerned with securing rights to exploit. Content industry refers to those sections that create artistic content, often aimed at a specific audience, in order to sell the rights. Tin Pan Alley in the early 1900 employed composers to write in specific styles and would retain copyright as employer (Reublin 2009). This is the basis for the current Creative Industry business model.

Digital copying and the Internet have effectively put the means of production and distribution into the artist’s hands – indeed, into the hands of anyone with access to a computer and a broadband connection. Traditional publishers and distributors are protecting their legally paid for rights by demanding changes in the law and policing their exploitation rights.

There is a split forming within the creative industry between those who see current copyright industry practices as ‘rights grabbing’ and ‘stifling creativity’ and those who see it as due diligence and a means to ensure that artists are encouraged to keep creating by using the law to maintain an income stream (Kretschmer et al. 2009 p.1).

Copyright is increasingly being used to control not just what we can experience, but how we can experience it and in what location. Technology is opening up new creative avenues for consumption and creation, but can also be used to police copyright infringement more effectively.

Challenges are emerging to old business models and new ways are developing to use technology to incentivise creativity. Traditional businesses are using copyright law to maintain a status quo developed over the past 90 years of commodification of artwork. Individual creation is challenging mass creation for access to mass consumption.

Across Europe, under the European Union (E.U.), within the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the United States (U.S.), copyright laws share the same spirit of fostering creativity, even if they differ in the actual legal manifestation. This discussion will explore this spirit and examine its intention and its application. It will examine how digital technology is effecting the traditional applications of Copyright Law. However, this will only serve to scratch the surface of a complex system. It will therefore focus on its application and examine the exceptions granted under law to examine if it truly serves its purpose.

Since copyright applies to all forms of creative expression, it is possible to extrapolate effects based on the simplest models. While there is a focus on applying the results of this discussion to filmmaking, this is not the main focus of the discussion. Filmmaking is a collaborative process that combines many forms of Intellectual Property (I.P.) – Literature, music, sound recording, performance etc. As such, there is much that can be learned by examining all forms of expression.

As case studies form the basis of legal thought, a historical perspective is useful when examining possible outcomes of current events. This discussion aims to provide a snap shot of the current situation, which can be built on at a later date. It is recommended that this be used as a foundation for further historical investigation in an attempt to transfer experiences to other forms of media.

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