Rick Prelinger - Technology, Copyright and Access
Duration: 00:08:32; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 16.473; Saturation: 0.183; Lightness: 0.231; Volume: 0.083; Cuts per Minute: 0.937; Words per Minute: 141.312
This interview was recorded for Steal This Film II
. The project tries to bring new people into the leagues of those now prepared to think 'after intellectual property', and think creatively about the future of distribution, production and creativity. This is a film that has no single author. It makers encourage its 'theft', downloading, distribution and screening, and have made the entire film and its footage available for download in HDV format, on their website and on Pirate Bay.
Here Prelinger underlines how innovative technology opens up new visions of the possible, but stresses that their ultimate effect is contingent on other factors. Many media platforms simply die and are not heard from again. Regarding copyright, Rick describes its emergence from an esoteric subject to a consumer issue, but emphasizes that from the point of view of cultural production, access to original materials will go on being more important than copyright issues in most cases. In closing he calls for a dialogue between users and producers of culture, to establish a new compact.
Interview with Rick Prelinger
If you look at technology as a factor
in changing the way that we think about copyright and changing the way that the laws
are made and experienced it has an influence but surprisingly I'd think it has less of an influence
than other people might think.
I'm not much of a technological determinist, I think technology has put it on the agenda
But I think really what's going to be more significant at least with an a capitalist society
is how these innovations effect the market
and then in a more sort of artistic and philosophical sense,
what people are actually doing. So for example, you have people like negative land
who've had an immense influence in terms of shifting the cultural perception of
right and wrongs, so to speak, but they've had absolutely no effect on the broad market per se
they've removed a certain amount of pressure from artists.
My sense of technology is that it opens up a whole new palet of possibilities
But most of these possibilities don't ever have much effect in society
Look at Bruce Sterling and the list of hundreds of thousands of dead media plattforms
Much of what we're looking at today as potentially revolutionary
and emancipating is going to end up dead media
The bigger patterns, I remember when I was a voyager author and I was making CD-roms
you had all this serious discourse from artists and arts administrators with fancy haircuts
with a straight face talking about CD-ROM as a new artistic medium.
Just like in UK they used to talk about tele-text as a medium on to itself with it's own
way of massaging the content that it carried, and yes that's true,
but I think it's more that technology opens up a vision of possibilities
but people tend to be very, very choosy about what they pull of that menu.
I will say with regard that technological determinism that it exists
and we can't argue that the telephone changed the world,
we can't argue that the internet changed the world. I frankly think that the telephone
still cast a larger shadow on the world than the internet has to this point,
although internet's rapidly catching up, but these are very, very long cycles.
So I don't know what file-sharing tells us yet about the cultural economy.
I don't know what rip-mix-burn and all the things you that you can extrapolate from
from that very simple menu of actions tells us about the way
that people are going to be expressing themselves in 2020, 2030.
It could be that we have another generation of people that just watch
movies and sit on their couch, except that there're fancier more immersive movies.
We don't know yet.
What I think we need to do is a little bit more previsional about the kind of regimes we set up,
in other words that we don't build digital right management that lasts for decades.
that we don't set rules for emerging technology that tends to cut off its potential
from the very beginning, or if these rules exists that we don't except them.
So with regard to copyright the first thing I'd say that there's been a number of historical periods
where copyright gets foregrounded.
You can talk about the french revolution and periods of time when
copyright is used to enforce social ends and social control but in my lifetime
copyright become a big topic of conversation in the 70s when we revised
the copyright act in the United States.
That's when you suddenly started seeing copyright notices all over the place.
In recent years there's been a few catalysts for a kind of a
hugely increased consciousness of what copyright is all about.
The Eldred case - where Eric Eldred sued to overturn term extension in the United States
- and lost.
A lot of people got the sense that copyright was an issue to be concerned about.
File-sharing and the prosecution of little kids and grandparents and ordinary people.
Big issue, DRM is going to foreground copyright as a consumer issue
I think that's already started.
I think people are far too concerned about copyright actually
I think we need to be aware of it and I think we shouldn't be passive, but on the other hand
the problem is that we're all thinking about copyright to the point that it paralyses us.
Copyright used to be the province of lawyers, maybe a few geeks,
and in many, many ways I'd like to see us a little less concerned about copyright
and a little more concerned about culture and access.
Most of the decisions about the copyright regime under which we're going to live
have already been made by large copyright holders by the culture industry.
And it's their turf, we can't really play effectively on their turf, we have to be reactive.
And this is no way to run a culture, we can not continue to react to other peoples rules.
It leaves us no latitude to lay out what kind of a world we'd like to live in.
I think we need to have a broad conversation
that's probably going to be an international conversation where people who make things
and people who use things, I'm talking about cultural works, sit together
and think about what kinds of rules best serve these interests.
I don't know that we're going to agree, but I think we need to ask a little bit more about utopia.
We need to really figure out what kind of a world we'd like to live in,
and then try to craft regulations to match that. Being reactive doesn't cut it.
The big problem isn't going to be the copyright law,
for most people that make culture it's going to be access to the original work.
If you are trying to do something about music,
how do you get access to the performance that you need?
If you're doing a historical piece on the civil rights movement in the United States
how do you get access to stuff that's in the archive that hasn't already been aired?
That's going to be the issue. Copyright in many cases is going to be the secondary issue.
I think that a lot of the conflict, the so called copyright wars,
have resulted from these poorly articulated business models.
The publishing industries have been freaked out, recording industries have been freaked out,
the movie industry has been freaked out.
The suits don't know how to think about this but there's a generational shift -
there's a notion that some of these newer ways of marketing and exchanging
cultural objects actually turn out to be more profitable for their owners.
I think the kind of extremism is starting to fade a way a little bit,
and we have to think about what's a little more sustainable.
I think we need to figure out what the rules should be ourselves,
we can't let the Hollywood or lawyers of the US government figure it out for us.
We should do it ourselves.
A lot of people valorize the sixties and in the sixties the was hardly any independent media.
There were three television networks in the United States you had the BBC and the iTV.
There was hardly any underground press, there was of course no blogs, no websites,
a few obscure zines mostly in the literary and the political world that nobody saw.
This is a rich and existing time to be alive and it's precisely because of
cultural proliferation and the absence of rules, the absence of permission.
I don't think that's going to go away.
Even if it's a million black boards scratched with a rock, when the electricity goes off,
I don't think that's going to go away.