Comments on Copyright Issues


So there’s been a good discussion happening in the comments section of the second to last post I made.  Just wanted to bring attention to it in case others are missing it.  I’ve pasted the last response I wrote right here, below, but be sure to go into the comments there and look at the responses Dave and Jen Tomaloff have been posting too.


OK. More responses. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, Jen, Dave and I (and the writer Lisa Adamowicz Kless) all hung out after BONK! For a few hours drinking tea, eating baked goods and talking about all this stuff in person. So the conversation may be at a slightly different point than the blog comments suggest, but I’ll try to keep it so that I don’t stray too far from what’s been posted here. I’ll address Jen’s new comments first. Much of this we already discussed in person, but I just want to reiterate it publicly with this response:


Yes, clearly, if my experience has not included many (or any) encouraging copyright stories, it’s at the very least because I haven’t heard them. The question is why I haven’t heard them and you seem to be suggesting that it’s not because they don’t exist, but because I am just maybe not pursuing them adamantly enough. Or maybe the suggestion is (and this one I’d at least be initially inclined to agree with) that because we respectively inhabit somewhat different micro-cultures in more than one way, I may just be from a culture that tends to see copyright’s failures whereas yours would see its successes. For instance, I’m coming at this thinking mainly of publishing poetry, you from publishing music Neither of these, though, seem to be cultures obsessed with copyright failure, I’m just pointing out that difference. However, I’m coming out of the academic information ethics culture right now, which is pretty much the only place where critical discourse on copyright seems to get prominent air time. Except for, apparently, on this blog now : )


And I wouldn’t ever say I haven’t benefitted from Copyright. If that’s what my response sounded like it was claiming, then I miswrote I’m aware that I benefit every time I publish anything, whether it be the book next month, or just in any online journal…hell, even this blog response. But I’m benefitting in more passive, de facto and ambiguous ways than you and Dave seem to be. You guys have the concrete evidence of cash to show how you’re being protected and benefitting. I just kind of have a vague sense of peace of mind, which I can take for granted when I’m not focused. And I don’t mean to say I’ve never financially benefitted from my poetry and the fact that copyright protects it for me. It just sounds like it’s on a much less noteworthy scale than you guys, which seems to be the case in general for poetry versus music. Music has the potential to make money in our culture. Poetry too, but in strange, different and indirect capacities that don’t seem to parallel the music world too well.


Moving on–Have I not made clear that I don’t think copyright is evil and should be abolished? For sure, I don’t think either of those things at all. Quite the contrary, I love what copyright is set up to do, but am angry at certain perversions that have been forced onto it in recent years through vehicles like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I may need a whole different post to go into those, I guess. One example: it is my understanding that, under current copyright legislation, the copyright on, say, Mickey Mouse could potentially be renewed until forever. If that’s accurate this long after the death of Walt Disney, then I’m very dissatisfied with that current aspect of the law.


One other major thing I think I misrepresented: this site,, is not preaching a gospel I by any means 100% support. In fact, I’ve explored it probably less than you and Dave, at this point, and will only explore it further because this raucous discussion popped off about it. I posted those three videos because I found them interesting, cute (I thought the one on derivation was pretty innovative in its own derivative way) and because they were addressing a topic that I feel like isn’t getting any kind of treatment in mainstream discourse. I couldn’t be happier at the fact that not one but two people actually took me up on a conversation about it. You asked why I didn’t feature the Creative Commons site instead of this one, which is a good question and, honestly, in retrospect, would have been a better option maybe. Because 1) I know much more about their mission and 2) it seems to be much more in line with my thoughts on copyright (really the folks at CC probably had a huge part in influencing my thoughts on copyright). Basically, I just posted this website’s link up because this blog, for me, is very much a “Hey, this is what I looked at today” kind of deal; a very immediate resource. After all this, though, I will probably think harder before doing so because I can see how “I’m posting info on this organization because it’s kind of interesting to me” quickly can be translated online into “I’m posting info on this organization because I wholeheartedly support everything they say.” Seriously, though, that doesn’t apply to this post. Or probably any other one I’ve ever made.


Now, in terms of the Twemlow chapbook and your question “Is the copyright law hindering you?” No, not at all. But the de facto copyright, the one that, as you suggested, would be in place if we just published the work without pursuing something through Creative Commons or the clearance documents you mentioned, would be hindering others from spreading and distributing it in the way that we’d like to encourage. CC is one option, the documents you mention, apparently, would be a similar option, we just kind of cut to the chase in a way that is hoped to be more convenient for readers by making the digital version available and readily printable for free online.


This brings me to the point that we have all seemed to be arguing for the same ideas and somehow missing each other on them still. Yesterday, I think it struck me as to why (it was really the biggest revelation I had while we were all talking yesterday): when I reference “copyright” and you reference “copyright,” the semantics don’t match; it’s like we’re signifying two completely different concepts. Somehow, there’s a rift between what each of us thinks of when that term is brought up. You guys seem focused on the positive aspects of protection, ownership and power of authority when you bring it up, all aspects I recognize, but am maybe downplaying too much in these posts? The downplaying doesn’t feel inappropriate to me, though, just because those aren’t the current copyright aspects I want to address. I’m interested and, in these posts, solely focused on, issues like infinite renewability, ambiguous legal language defining derivation and the lobbying power of corporations that have gotten aspects like these into place. I’m interested in cleaning tthose aspects out, the aspects you guys don’t seem focused on, so that the aspects we all seem to be in favor of—putting decisions about the work into the hands of the author, for instance—are better streamlined.


My favorite quote from your last post, Jen: “Also, real quick… I don’t understand the motivation behind the site.” Apparently, neither do I. I honestly have still not looked beyond the videos and the three pages I posted links to. You all have at least looked at the FAQs page…From what you tell me, though, it sounds like they would not be interested in putting decisions into the hands of the creators of the work. I look forward to exploring that more on the site itself, soon. But I also can’t relate to that mentality, anyways.


Another point of yours I wanted to emphasize: “her bad for not seeking out artist who are willing to let their music be used for free, there are millions of them.” I think this is a really important point. If someone doesn’t know of a bunch of artists who would be happy to let her use their stuff on some very reasonable terms, if not for free, then I suspect that person is not devoting enough time to investigating the people creating in their geography or the underground artists out on the grind beyond. As you’ve said about some other things, Jen, this doesn’t happen without substantial effort…we’re not being barraged with billboards and TV commercials, constantly, about Dave Tomaloff or Nick Demske, for instance. But if a person wants to jump in that double-dutch, wants to enter the world of independent film making maybe, then priority number one, in my opinion, should be familiarizing yourself with a buttload of other people with similar aspirations and learning from them in any way you can.


OK. Almost finished. In regard to Creative Commons being in mainstream consciousness or not, despite the points that you bring up, I would still maintain that it is not. I do not consider those who run the White House, Wikipedia, or even you and I, really, very mainstream. I’m more thinking in terms of, if I held a survey on a street corner here in Racine, asking passersby their knowledge about CC. And I don’t think it would result in very much.


The last point that I think is important for us to keep discussing: “The attack should not be on the copyright which protects the artist. It should be on those who are looking for the loops holes.” Again, while I think your and my views on this are pretty parallel, my concern is more with the fact that “those who are looking for the loop holes” have swung their power into the courts enough, by now, that they have built new, scarier loop holes into copyright itself. That’s what I mean when I think of copyright now. The concept itself has been corrupted. I don’t want to change it so Dave can’t make financial gain off his music. I want to change it so that Mickey Mouse becomes a piece of the public domain like he should have before the DMCA.


Dave, I’ll try to get to your comments later today, but stuffs real busy, so it might end up being a day or so more, if not. Either way, thanks again for contributing, guys, and I’ll try to cover everything soon.




One Response to “Comments on Copyright Issues”

  1. I want to engage

    in the conversation,

    but if I do,

    my brilliant comments

    will not be copyrighted

    … or will they?
    nor copywritten, either.

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