Some Quotables from OnCopyright 2008

I spent last Thursday at Copyright Clearance Center’s OnCopyright 2008, and came away with some great lines from the panelists well worth sharing here.

On a meta-level, one of the recurring themes on the panels was the value of using the work of others as a starting point for creative experimentation, as in a pastiche. So it was fitting to learn from the organizers that they found inspiration at the February TOC Conference, both in terms of speakers and in staging. (The panel title "Technology: Confronting the Tools of Disruption" was another nice nod.)

I’ve enclosed direct quotes in quotation marks — the remainder is generally faithful paraphrasing, but may suffer from some transcription abbreviation.

Chris Sprigman:

  • "Copyright law is not in place to protect business models, it’s in place to protect creativity."
  • Who controls copyright law? According to a 5th-grade civics class: Congress. According to a cynic: People who care enough to spend money to get Congress to do what they want.
  • Intellectual property has nothing to do with what craigslist does, and craigslist has significantly diminished newspapers’ ability to create a return on what they do.

Kevin O’Kane:

  • When talking to big media companies [about Red Lasso, a service for slicing and sharing TV news footage], a third of the people get it, and say "you’re right on," a third say "you’re the antichrist," and a third just say "when do I retire?"

Clay Shirky:

  • I was watching Dora the Explorer with my daughter, and the next day at the babysitter’s, she wanted to watch that specific Dora episode again. When I told her, "this is a TV, you can’t just watch whatever you want," her response was, "Oh. Is it broken?"
  • The college students I teach have a hard time understanding how things used to be, especially that if you had something to say in public, you couldn’t. You had to convince a professional somewhere to give you access.
  • "The principal advantage young people have over us is that they don’t believe things that are no longer true."
  • Linotype unions laughed until milk came out of their noses when the Mac came out. Twenty years later, they were gone. The newspapers said, "great, we can rip up those contracts"; no one told them "you’re next". What matters is getting the news to a literate public. Whether that happens on the Web or in print is immaterial. We’re not going to be a society that doesn’t care what’s going on.
  • "I don’t watch SNL anymore, but I know when they do something funny, because the YouTube clip shows up in my inbox."

Doug Rushkoff:

  • What can the ‘pro’ do that the amateur can’t? If what you’re doing is really good, you’ll get a beautifully murky porous line between a fan and a pro. What keeps you in the center is that you’re the best.

Tim Wu:

  • You can call lostpedia "copyright infringement". But another word is "marketing," and sometimes they’re the same thing.
  • One-to-one communication has always made more money than one-to-many. The telcos have made way more money than movie industry.

Jonathan Lethem:

  • "Copyright is not intended to protect and benefit artists, it’s meant to benefit the overall culture."

Suzanne Vega:

  • My manager told me, "some boys in England have stolen your song and we’re going to sue them." At the time we were trying to promote my new record, and I really liked [their version]. So I said, "instead of sue them, why don’t we release it as a single?" We bought it from them for flat fee — no royalties — but then we got royalties from every copy sold. Then everyone started remixing it and sending me their versions, 10-11 in all, and then we had to ask all of them for permission to put into my collection … now there’s 35-40 remixes out there. Some ask permission and some don’t.
  • dna had actually called the record company to ask permission, but they never called them back!
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