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Copyright Reform – Buenos Aires

Professor Lawrence Lessig spoke in Argentina regarding Copyright and Copyright including Creative Commons. Prof. Lessig talk about the need to share more, legally that is. People have been sharing a lot of things especially since the introduction of the internet and its public availability.

Sharing is one of the common traits of humanity. We share the story of our lives, we share our knowledge, we share our thoughts and our feelings. Just imagine if our great Philosopher’s kept their knowledge to themselves with no intent of sharing their theories. If scientists would keep their studies just within their head without sharing it to the world.

I do understand that “ideas” per se are not copyrightable under Art. 275 of the intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.

SECTION 175. Unprotected Subject Matter. — Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 172 and 173, no protection shall extend, under this law, to any idea, procedure, system, method or operation, concept, principle, discovery or mere data as such, even if they are expressed, explained, illustrated or embodied in a work; news of the day and other miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information; or any official text of a legislative, administrative or legal nature, as well as any official translation thereof.

Socrates is a prime example of such a man, Socrates despite being one of the greatest philosophers of all time, however he has not written any book regarding his ideas. Not even transcripts or manuscripts. Most of the information that we have about Socrates was second-hand information. [1] His only legacy was in the works of his student Plato on how his discourses with other went thru and what his philosophy was back then.

Socrates loved knowledge and he did not sought fame or riches coming from his work. If he had acquired the “rights” to his Socratic Method, since methods are not covered by copyright law, then most if not all law schools would have to ask for his permission. He is properly attributed yes and I believe that for someone who loves knowledge like him that is more than enough.

All that Socrates wanted was to learn. To gain more knowledge and in turn impart knowledge that was his goal. Not by the common way of pedagogy or dictation but rather thru a series of questions and answers so that they would realize the answer within themselves. He modified the knowledge he has gained in order to let others think for themselves, just by giving them a foundation from which to work on without impeding their ability to think by imposing his own thoughts.

Just imagine if this man decided not to share his knowledge and would rather that he get compensation for the knowledge he has gained thru the years.

However, sharing in today’s world is a lot more complicated than just sitting in a marketplace engaging in conversations with day to day people. With the advent of the Internet, a single person can easily disseminate information to the entire world. I remember the scene in the old movie Jesus Christ Superstar where in essence Judas asked why Jesus arrived during the time that he did instead of the present if he really wanted to share salvation with everyone, he said that if Jesus was sent today it would have been easier to spread the word thru media, radio and television. That movie hasn’t contemplated yet how massive the world wide web would become that it is even a risk for long standing media channels. The song “Video Killed the Radio Star” from the Buggles, revived by The President of the United States of America, well now the Internet is killing general media channels such as the Television. They are currently trying to adapt to this change via their own “channels” or watch on demand television via the internet.

The Internet is one of the massive changers of the world of today. Culture clashed and became one big hodgepodge of different cultures mixing in with everyone else. Psy’s Gangnam Style was a Korean K-Pop Song mixed in with western cowboys horse riding steps. Just look at the Philippines we are a good example of how mixed up cultures are now because of the Internet. We had access to different ideologies and trends that we don’t know where we are. Back in the days wearing black was stereotyped for heavy metal listeners or rockers but now black is the color of those considered “Emo’s”. Some who used to wear black a lot changed their color preference because they do not want to be tagged as Emo’s.

Copyright infringement is also one of the things most affected by the Internet. Infringement has become very much easy in today’s Internet world. The availability of the materials over the internet it is very easy to get access to these information. However not everyone is aware on how copyright infringement is being committed. They would use these materials violating the Economic and Moral Rights of the Author of these copyrighted works to the detriment of the copyright owners.

Professor Lessig understanding the impact of the Internet to the world wants to devise of a way to continue to share but it needs to be done legally. We do not want a world where the law is the one which inhibits creativity and sharing. We need to find a solution where people who wants to share can share and people who want to learn can learn without fear of legal implications or being stuck in oblivion not knowing till their death of the infringements they have committed.

Professor Lessig speaks of works that are being remixed online and that he pointed out the theory of the call and response. There is a creative call which invokes a cultural response from the people who have watched it. I believe that this call and response, these infringements have been happening for a long time, the only difference is because of the existence of the internet it just became more apparent because it becomes more visible. It is quite hard to see a tree in a forest but the internet has given us a bird’s eye view of the entire world making us see what used to be clouded because of our perspective. Songs of the past are being performed commercially without the consent of the songwriters or performers but are they seen? No, we had very few means to do recording unlike today where expect a performer who does a live performance to be recorded by cellular phones or digital cameras on almost every angle and have it uploaded over to YouTube or Facebook.

This gives rise to what is called AWARENESS. It has been existing over the years it has only been now that we became aware of its existence because of the internet. We have become more and more actively participating in what we consider as entertainment and learning now. You no longer just sit and watch TV and the only thing that you could do afterwards is to speak with our friends on what we have watched, even to the point of imitating key points or doing small acts to those who hasn’t watched it, in short we are sharing it via performance. We no longer just read books or documents written by recommended authors or coming from authorized sources.

We are now aware of what is happening to the world. We tend to imitate what is happening over the rest of the world, infringing some rights in the process though. We see rapper’s imitating the style of western rappers and we became aware that some of the songs that became popular here in the Philippines are actually Japanese songs whose lyrics have been changed but the overall sound is very much the same. Prior to the internet it would take somebody who has knowledge of both cultures to realize that there was an infringement and some have used it to their advantage to earn millions with the work of others.

We need to find a way to allow sharing of information that we WANT to share and to protect the information that we DO NOT WANT TO SHARE. We have to understand that everyone has their own talents. These people who write books, write songs and creates movies have those as their talent. They earn their living from their works, it’s the product of their hard work despite not really exerting heavy manual labor, there is heavy labor being done by their brains. I believe these are the things that need to be protected to the point that infringement needs to have repercussions. However there are people who create works that they would like to share with others, however how can we share this works without having to do with the requirement of current law on allowing others to use their works.

To be realistic, how many artists in the United States would actually have an idea that their songs are being used in one of the bars in the provinces other than a person who have taken a picture of that performance, uploaded it over to social media tagging it with the title of the song for example. The internet has made us aware on what is happening around the world and how many violations are occurring. We have literally been taken out of the cave of shadows that we have been staying for a long time and it made us see the light. We see how the other side of the world works.

I believe in Professor Lessig’s words regarding creativity. Creativity I believe should not be hampered it should not be restricted to the point of it being inexistent.  I also understand that most of the things in the world has already been researched, studied, or expressed in one way or another around the world but it shouldn’t stop us from being original. The thoughts I am expressing here may be in the mind of someone else who knows where or someone might have written it somewhere else, however there still remain something original in my work, we may have the same idea but how I structured the idea and expressed it is something original to me and that I do not need to have it attributed to anyone else.

Back in college, I was startled when I heard something when I was attending a meeting of an organization,which I no longer will name and I am not even a part of. Their topic is how the culture of the Philippines is affecting the culture of other countries. The startling point was made by a 3rd or 4th year student who said that the Philippines has affected the writings of the Greeks, and someone asked why, He said that since the Greeks mentioned mountains and Gods and Goddesses that it closely resembled how the Philippines has its Anitos that the Greeks have copied from the Philippines. Though being not a member I wasn’t able to stop myself from cutting in. I stated that based on geographical location, there was no way that Homer would have gotten in touch with someone from the Philippines since inter-ocean travel was not yet possible during that time, taking into consideration the timeline of the history of the world, they supposedly existed first and the mere fact that they mentioned landscapes that would seem like the Philippines it doesn’t mean it came from the Philippines since Greece also has its fair share of mountains and rivers.

This was the time prior to the internet though, but now it would be very difficult for anyone to say that if one’s work has a very distinct similarity to another’s work that they were not aware of its existence. Most often than not it was copied from another’s work.

Professor Lessig indicated that Creative Commons is not the solution, in fact it really isn’t, it is just more a prelude to the solution. Creative Commons is not law. In order for something to be legal therefore it is the law is the one that should change.

Creative Commons is just creating a scenario where how having a different method of protection to copyrighted works could increase creativity. I do have a query regarding a part of the lecture stating that everything that is being done has already been done and it is just a modification of something done in the past. Practically what this kind of view is stating is that there is no longer any original work today. I beg to differ. There are times that due to the influx of information and if the law is too lax it would actually inhibit the growth of creativity.

Why do I say that? How many people actually write their own ideas in their works? How many eat up the required number of pages quoting references, books, laws and cases even if it is not directly related to the topic that they want? Just to comply with the requirements, This in fact inhibits the author’s ability to think because instead of thinking they would just work on the idea of others, without violating their rights since works of the government are not copyrightable.

Looking at it on another perspective. Just going to the AppStore of Apply or Google Play Store, there are multitude of apps there that are just mere duplicates of other games that they are already categorized because originality in the gameplay has already been impeded due to them thinking that I can steal your idea provide better graphics and crisper controls and I would gain the advantage.  Games such as “Endless Runners”, Temple Run, Subway Surfer, Minion Rush and such. Apple allows these game creators to create games which are more or less just a different skin of the same code. If we trace all of these games back to its basic core code it would typically be the same. It would just like be submitting to your professor in Computer Science a solution to a machine problem wherein the program is identical to your classmate it just so happens that your output has a different font and color as your classmate. Add a few “# lines” or comment lines so that the line count would not be the same. However if Apple decides to look into the actual core language of the game or its code, and they decided that if it follows the same logic to have it removed, these developers would then move to create “new” games or to try something different.

Even photography apps doing the same exact thing are being packaged in the same way. How many DSLR wannabe apps are in the Appstore as well as Apps providing the same filters but named in a different way. I don’t believe that it is being creative when they had it packaged in a different way.

People have a tendency to rest on their laurels when they see that they have done something successful, e.g. Angry Birds and their unending sequels. However if we continue on this path, our creativity would be greatly hampered.

There should be a development of a mechanism such that we are free to share our works to whoever we want to, set certain conditions on how we want our works to be handled and have it “legalized” by having it placed within our laws. Being part of our laws it would then have a binding effect on everyone and its protection would be increased. Violations of the licenses would also have a corresponding penalty and have a deterring effect on others to commit the violation in the first place.

This system should however emphasize the importance of original works and provide guidelines on how to get our creative juices flowing. We should not be satisfied of merely doing remixes or variations of the work of others. We could use it as a Launchpad may be to make ourselves relevant but not to the point that all we do is remix songs and gain fame thru it.

We have heard dozens of remixes of famous songs, changing some of the lyrics, introducing different artists and counting it as a new version. Remixing lyrics on an old song to a new song just for recall purposes hoping they would be remembered on the old song that made them one hit wonders. However, these people who just did remixes didn’t actually last long. They might have made money or had their shot at fame but it wasn’t a long lasting one.  You also run the risk that if the artist that you are remixing fades away same goes with you.

I believe that the works created by people in Creative Commons are original in a sense that they used the works of other and integrated their own personal touch creating wonderful pieces of art. It also provided for a system that would allow users to amalgamate different media and have it used in ways that the original author of the work would not have thought possible therefore creating an original work.

In my opinion Copyright Reforms should be geared towards a system that would encourage not only Creativity but also Originality as well. Apple did not become apply by just improving on what is current technology but by being one step ahead. When cd players and Walkman where in fashion, they did not create a better sounding cd player or a more stylish Walkman. They created the iPod which some says has revolutionized the portable music scene.  Steve Jobs could have just been creative during that time and created a faster, more efficient, longer battery life derivative of the Walkman but he didn’t. He thought of something original rather than to improve on what exists. He had both creativity and originality in mind at that time. This is the kind of Copyright Reform that we should foster, provide venues for the use of works in order to create better one while at the same time providing incentive to original works in order to encourage its growth and production.

P.S. The lecture also spoke of Aaron Swartz who died in his apartment, prior to his death he was charged with multiple counts of computer fraud and unauthorized to a computer network. Several federal websites were hacked in light of his death. The community sympathizes with his death and his dedication to his work. Aaron was considered as a hacktivist and died because of his cause. It is with his death that many articles are now being published via open access which is accessible to the public and not just to a select few. #OpLastResort started on Twitter was started by Anoynmous in memory of Aaron Swartz and for the reform of computer crime laws.


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