Friday, January 25, 2008

No known copyright restrictions

In addition to my own research, I recently did some work on a project about recontextualising heritage collections, a joint project between the Centre for Cultural Research at the University of Western Sydney and the Powerhouse Museum. The project is looking at the variety of ways that digital media and social authoring can enhance and enrich the curatorial process.

I was looking at the ways in which people use the collections data, images and other media that many museums and galleries have made available online.

On January 21, 2008 I posted on The Commons, a collaborative project between Flickr and The Library of Congress.

LOC is posting images from their collection that have "No known copyright restrictions".

I immediately wondered why they hadn't deemed them "public domain".

Here's their explanation:

No known restrictions on publication means that the Library is unaware of any restrictions on the use of the image. There are generally two cases where this phrase is used:

1. There was a copyright and it was not renewed.

2. The image is from a late 19th or early 20th century collection for which there is no evidence of any rights holder:

* There are no copyright markings or other indications on the images to indicate that they were copyrighted or otherwise restricted, AND
* The records of the U.S. Copyright Office do not indicate any copyright registration, AND
* The acquisition paperwork for the collection does not contain any evidence of any restrictions, AND
* Images from the collection have been used and published extensively without anyone stepping forward to claim rights.

These facts do not mean the image is in the public domain, but do indicate that no evidence has been found to show that restrictions apply.

Real Fakes from SilkStreet (TM)

Beijing's SilkStreet is known as the place to go for brandname knock-offs. Agenda reports on the making of a brand:

‘Real deal’: Beijing fakes market gets own brand


In a highly ironic move, but at a time when China is increasing its need for brand legitimacy, Beijing’s most notorious location for counterfeit luxury goods - SilkStreet - has just turned itself into a legitimate brand and threatens anyone who tries to counterfeit the intellectual property of the SilkStreet trademark…

The first items to bear the SilkStreet name, displayed on Wednesday, include apparel such as neckties shirts and scarves, as well as a few household items such as tablecloths. They are marked “quality guaranteed” with a label that tells buyers that “the goods are certified by the Silk Street Market. If any quality problems are found, the market will bear the responsibility of compensation.”

“SilkStreet products are sold exclusively in the market. Anyone using the brand outside will be held liable,” the Beijing Evening News quoted Wang Zili, general manager of the market, as saying. — (Via China Daily)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Copy and Paste Show

The Copy and Paste Show is a project by Seth Price, Ida Ekblad & Anders Nordby, and 808. This show was curated by Hanne Mugaas and is part of Time Shares, a series of online exhibitions co-presented by Rhizome and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. It has benn online since September 27, 2006.

The Copy and Paste Show explores the evolution of copy-and-paste culture, through which the copying of digital material has become a major technique in the construction of online identity and style. As with any visual style, web aesthetics often rely on the appropriation of non-original media. In design, people often copy html codes from other websites in order to sample existing material. In constructing online profiles or personal websites, participants often call upon found images, video or graphics. In this context, software and tools gains importance, as they enable new kinds of sharing and distribution amongst cultural producers, and amateurs become empowered to create and distribute sophisticated and layered work. The artists in The Copy and Paste Show explore how technical and digital tools alter web aesthetics, music production, and online and offline relations through the use of copy and paste techniques.

Fittingly, I simply copied and pasted most of this information!

More on the Chinese Oil Painting Village

In November I posted a link to an excellent piece in Artforum about the infamous Chinese oil painting village in Dafen.

Last month, on The Atlantic's site, James Fallows posted his own pictures of the art and artists in the village and ponders the importance of bearing witness.

An artist in Dafen with his prolific output

He also links to this earlier article about the village in the Chicago Tribune.

So what are these paintings? Are they any less real than the original? Is it fair to accuse these artists who copy the paintings with their own minds and hands with piracy? If there can only be one true Van Gogh Sunflowers, what does it matter if there are thousands of handpainted copies? What if one of those copies was better in some way than the original? Do the copies undermine the value of the original?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Monkey see, Monkey Do: Mimicry and laughter among orangutans

'Laughs' not exclusive to humans
The basis for laughter may have originated in an ancient primate ancestral to both humans and modern apes, a study suggests.

Scientists found that orang-utans had a sense of empathy and mimicry which forms an essential part of laughter.

Facial expressions, such as the open, gaping mouth resembling laughter, were picked up and copied by orang-utans.

The speed with which they were mimicked suggests these expressions were involuntary, Biology Letters reports.

In other words, the "laughter" was contagious.

Dr Marina Davila Ross, from the University of Portsmouth and Professor Elke Zimmermann at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany, studied the play behaviour of 25 orang-utans aged between two and 12 at four primate centres around the world.

When one of the orang-utans displayed an open, gaping mouth, its playmate would often display the same expression less than half a second later.

Dr Davila Ross commented: "In humans, mimicking behaviour can be voluntary and involuntary. Until our discovery there had been no evidence that animals had similar responses.

"What is clear now is the building blocks of positive emotional contagion and empathy that refer to rapid involuntary facial mimicry in humans evolved prior to humankind."

She added that the findings shed a new light on empathy and its importance for animals which live in groups such as orang-utans.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Recording Industry targets computer users
Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use

By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2007; M05

Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing.

Still, hardly a month goes by without a news release from the industry's lobby, the Recording Industry Association of America, touting a new wave of letters to college students and others demanding a settlement payment and threatening a legal battle.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

"I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."

RIAA's hard-line position seems clear. Its Web site says: "If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages."

They're not kidding. In October, after a trial in Minnesota -- the first time the industry has made its case before a federal jury -- Jammie Thomas was ordered to pay $220,000 to the big record companies. That's $9,250 for each of 24 songs she was accused of sharing online.

Whether customers may copy their CDs onto their computers -- an act at the very heart of the digital revolution -- has a murky legal foundation, the RIAA argues. The industry's own Web site says that making a personal copy of a CD that you bought legitimately may not be a legal right, but it "won't usually raise concerns," as long as you don't give away the music or lend it to anyone.

Of course, that's exactly what millions of people do every day. In a Los Angeles Times poll, 69 percent of teenagers surveyed said they thought it was legal to copy a CD they own and give it to a friend. The RIAA cites a study that found that more than half of current college students download music and movies illegally.

The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' " she said.

But lawyers for consumers point to a series of court rulings over the last few decades that found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording.

As technologies evolve, old media companies tend not to be the source of the innovation that allows them to survive. Even so, new technologies don't usually kill off old media: That's the good news for the recording industry, as for the TV, movie, newspaper and magazine businesses. But for those old media to survive, they must adapt, finding new business models and new, compelling content to offer.

The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only "created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies," Beckerman says. "Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started."

The industry "will continue to bring lawsuits" against those who "ignore years of warnings," RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said in a statement. "It's not our first choice, but it's a necessary part of the equation. There are consequences for breaking the law." And, perhaps, for firing up your computer.