BitDepth#874 - February 26

All the bacchanal about copyright in Carnival 2013 was about money, whether it's real or imagined remains to be seen.
Copyright and cacada
This is Carnival in 2013. There are costumes there, but you’ve got to get past a phalanx of security to see it. Who will bother? Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

At the heart of all the recent fuss about copyright in Carnival is money. Who’s making it, who’s allowing access and where the heck, really, is my cut.
Copyright is a modern invention, an attempt to make it possible for the fruits of the mind to benefit from popular appeal in a world of broadcasting and mass distribution.

It’s one of the great ironies of modern copyright issues that it’s the acceleration of modern media distribution, at a rate unimaginable in the era of Gutenberg, that’s causing the problems of today.
Modern copyright isn’t a single right, it’s now multiple opportunities bundled into a single creation and sometimes a myriad of rights clearances within an existing property.

A movie is a good example of a creation with multiple authors and many licensing opportunities and challenges. From the screenplay to the actors’likenesses to the blister-packed toys, there are contracts aplenty in every 90 minute action adventure.
Now it looks as if the event that likes to call itself the greatest show on Earth is aspiring to the legal spiderwebs of the modern blockbuster film even as its actual content struggles to muster the audience of a straight-to-DVD no-budget production.

From the first rumblings of income curiosity among the glittered faithful to the fear, uncertainty and doubt being aggressively sown by Richard Cornwall of the T&T Copyright Collections Organization, Carnival in 2013 collectively demonstrated an admirable yearning to police empty stables. Perhaps some bandleader, inspired by this year’s many pointless rights debacles, will play The Augean Wuk in 2014.

Rights in an intellectual property (IP) can be sliced thinly, but this year we saw blunt three lines in play, not Muramasa swords and let’s not say anything about the spastic bladesmanship.
It isn’t clear where we go from here. The level of comprehension of copyright is at an absolute nadir, providing rich fodder for the kind of uninformed and highly opinionated arguments that have migrated so neatly from local rumshops to Facebook.

Our IP itself is compromised, with our mas and music now in three neat phases, dramatic and aspiring, befeathered and perspiring and traditionalist while expiring.
It’s exactly when Carnival needs more informed review of the practice and principles that its built on that the chilling effects of the dubious 1995 era tax on Carnival souvenir magazines is having its most deleterious impact.

That fee urged such publications to a profit-driven, fifteen-year, images-only focus on pretty bands that’s marginalised everything that hasn’t got a thong or 150 beats per minute.
This is the type of constraining and warping impact that leads people to dismiss copyright as unnecessarily limiting and fundamentally broken. I make my living licensing photographs for commercial and editorial use while also expending significant effort to make large swaths of my work available on the web free from charge.

I know the copyright model is broken, but I can’t take Facebook Likes to HiLo either, so it's necessary to dance between strategically free and commercially licensed until a better business model makes itself evident.
Nothing like this seems to have occurred to
Carnival’s Axis of Copyright, and the current focus is on up-front payments for perceived value.

It’s an understandable if annoying reaction. I’ve had my intellectual property infringed in the past and reacted poorly as well. It was only when I began looking at what people were interested in that I began to realise that there really is a fundamental difference between price and value.

With a surprising consistency, what people are interested in using from my archives, either by asking or outright theft, are rarely the things that cost the most when they were produced, it’s those elements of Carnival in which considerable personality and authenticity were invested.

The single most lunatic thing about everything related to copyright in Carnival 2013 was the realization that nothing is actually being licensed in these agreements. There is no contractual foundation between the person buying "rights" from any of these bodies and the whole lunatic mess is built on a fundamentally absurd business model. Most photographers and videographers are forced to pay for "commercial" or "personal" rights that have no definitions, in advance of any actual use. This happens in no other application of copyright law, anywhere.

This would be buying cat in bag except that there's no actual cat or, apparently, any bag either. Generic copyright is being sold off the shelf in a big empty yellow box featuring Helvetica Neue Bold type.
It's hard to decide whether to call for education, a psychiatrist or the Fraud Squad.

The best thing about the rights invested in IP is that they don’t have to be exercised to be retained. You can with proper wording and a sensible contract allow someone to make use of something, within carefully circumscribed and defined limits, without surrendering your ownership of it.
But doing that means making an investment in the intellect half of IP, and we’ve only been willing to argue about the property bits, like maddened children playing a Carnival version of Monopoly.

Fixin' Carnival
CarnivalTV, 2013
Dear Allison
Tradition and Commerce
Carnival's Axis of Copyright
The Images of Carnival (Video)
Morning Edition on Carnival copyright (Video)
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