Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Free Culture

I just finished listening to Lawerence Lessig's book, as a free MP3 download, Free Culture. As an artist, I am interested in ideas about intellectual property and ownership, based on making a living as an artist. From his book, I see more clearly how the rights of artists, living artists, are an imperitive for creativity and sustainable production in the studio. Sustainable creativity, making art that builds upon our culture's traditions and heritage, is a necessary component of cultural evolution. Lessig very clearly articulates, in distinct shades of grey, the difference between paying an artist and the danger of extended copyrights in the hands of private corporate interests, even foundations of individual artists, long dead.
I have been long running up against a myth in our culture that an artist cannot make a living. An artist's gifts must be given, as art is above money. This is so false, it makes me want to scream. Many people DO get that the artist must not only be paid, and must also have control of their creative output. The financial pressures of life in the good old USA require that artists do all that they can to make a living. Where does that mean selling out? Is selling out even possible, if an artist is working for herself?
From Lessig's book, I am even more convinced that free culture, while not free in the sense of not paying, is about freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom to have an idea, expressing it and putting it into the world to see how it flies. As a visual artist, copyrights and ownership are even less clear and more complex than say a musician or author. If I produce work which has a visual affect on my fellows, and artists are suddenly experiencing an influence of my ideas, isn't this part of the point of being a visual artist? To have an affect and be a member of a culture, some sort of sharing is necessary to the advance of thought, ideas and quite possibly a new reality.
A story can be told visually. If it is a compelling story and spreads, then the artist has had an impact on society, hopefully for the better. If the work is owned, say, by Disney, and any derivitive works are doomed to costly lawsuits, then the advance of culture is stifled.
As I mentioned, Lessig paints his picture in shades of grey, with many fine lines and balances to consider. The artist must be paid for her work. The artist needs to understand their studio production is a business, not sullying thir output, but as an expression of the freedom and justice for an artist to sustain free thought. Remaining independent is the option I have chosen to continue to produce work which is not beholden to a large, private interest.

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CarolGert said...

Wow! It's a fine line and so well articulated here. Must read the book.

Susan Schwake said...

B R A V O !
i am posting this later today as a link to you.
this is Sooooooo good.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi ;)

This is a great post indeed.

Lawrence Lessig said before as follows in his speech.

Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
Ours is less and less a free society. [link]

Change often tend to move toward stability in any system. Because it is often the case that the tendency is based on rational choice, it is very difficult for most of us to stop it. So I agree with him.

Well, anyway, even if society and culture will go in whichever directions (free or not), we might be able to expand how to make a living as artists at this time. We can want a change anytime.

My friend who is an illustrator sell his artworks. But I assert with confidence that all he can do is more than that. In fact, some artists designed ATM cards and Sony walkman in Japan (Just for your information, Japan does NOT have hectic art markets). Perhaps, this must be just one example among many.

Moreover, drastic advance in technology created the opportunity to give voice for many artists. We might be able to do collaboration to occur over a network on a global scale.

I believe artists can play an important role in various spheres! I myself personally hope that 21st century will be art century for artists (It goes without saying that we should redefine the meaning of artists).

Anonymous said...

I love that book too. Essential for any artist. And for musicians maybe even more: artist should keep their own rights and never give them away to ASCAP for example. This used to be pretty 'normal' in the past probably because any artist was doing the same thing... but I don't believe in it at all since ASCAP treads it's own customers as criminals.

Build upon the past, yeah that's it!