Copyright dungeons and grey zones

16 Apr 2008 | 268 words | amsterdam kennisland commons copyright

Felix has posted an interesting review of the recent Economies of the Commons Conference over on the nettime mailing list. He picks up a remark that i made during the ‘Sustainable Images of the Future panel’ on friday night:

The most poignant moment came when Edwin van Huis (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision) recounted a discussion with a broadcaster about whether the institute could put online some TV segment that was already on Youtube. The answer was: No! When he asked the broadcaster how he felt about his content being on Youtube the answer was: ‘You can’t do anything against Google’. Thus, as Paul Keller remarked, there is a perverse situation that the official repositories of culture are going to be stuck with stuff that either they cannot make accessible, or nobody cares about. All the rest will be better accessible via Youtube or piratebay.

In short, it became abundantly clear that, no matter how much money you have, the attempt to solve all the legal issues first and only then start to release the material is doomed to failure. Digitization plus strict adherence to the law will not create digital archives but copyright dungeons.

Most of the successful, innovative projects, it turns out, are operating in zones of varying degrees of grey. In the American example, Youtube, the grey zone is protected by corporate might (Google). In the European example, piratebay, the grey zone is sustained by mass civil disobedience.

You can read his full post in the nettime archive or on the knowledgeland blog, where i have reposted it with some additional thoughts of mine.