Archive for the ‘copyright’ Category

No Protection: A Filmmaker Against SOPA

Friday, December 16th, 2011

As a filmmaker, I’m a content creator. I’m an “artist.” I want to be able to make a living doing creative work and I do want to be paid for work I do. But I do not support copyright law as it is today. I do not support the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and I do not support the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The reason is simple. I am a practical person. If something is essentially unenforceable then there is a problem with it as a solution. If to be enforceable, the law needs to shut down free speech, security and the general mechanics of unrelated businesses, I don’t think it spells pragmatic.

I would like innovators to come up with a way for creative people to make more money from their work. I do not care all that much if giant conglomerates suffer in the meantime. They should not be permitted to force even more corporate welfare down our throats in the form of legislation that benefits a very narrow group of powerful companies. They have fed someone the line that their protection benefits artists, when that is almost never the case. The vast majority of artists benefit far more from innovative sites like Etsy or Vimeo whose very existence is threatened by this type of legislation.

I have been worried about various threats to innovation on the internet, for example in the broadband monopoly in the US. But that nearly every internet company has come out against this type of legislation has not been able to stop the force of the MPAA and their lobbyists. Even a bipartisan effort in the Judiciary Committee seems to be yielding little return.

I saw a tweet yesterday that said “If SOPA passes, I’m moving to Canada.” It does sound tempting, but if SOPA passes, the internet will be affected everywhere. The U.S. is still leading the way in web innovation. But if you make obvious activity illegal, we’ll all be criminals.

Call your Congressperson today.

CopyNight & Copy/Right(?)

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Two fun copyright geekery events this week. First, CopyNight returns, hosted by me and Fred Benenson at Swift Bar 34 E 4th St (between Bowery and Lafayette), tomorrow, Tuesday 4/27 at 7PMish. This is a social night which is open to anyone who likes talking IP and drinking beverages, possibly in that order.

On Saturday, Pratt hosts Copy/Right(?) a symposium about copyright, creative commons, fair use and library science. Good Times!

The Cobbler- A new model for entertainment artists

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Have an article up at about a new approach for filmmakers and other entertainment artists in the reproductive economy. Sample:

For the first time, it is possible for a filmmaker to make a film on a very small budget, use promotion and distribution methods that are low-cost or free, and find enough revenue to break even and possibly to support themselves in a basic fashion. It means you probably won’t become a millionaire, but in return your chances of being able to support yourself through your work go up, and they go up more the better your work is.

Free Culture, Free

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

You can watch the Free Culture X conference here live. The Twitter tag for the event is #fcx.

Festivals! Conferences!

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Just flagging some upcoming events I’ll be attending at which I hope to see you and give you one of my new cards.

Making Your Media Matter- DC, February 11-12 “Cutting-edge practices for making your media matter”

Free Culture X- DC, February 13-14 “Free software and open standards, open access scholarship, open educational resources, network neutrality, and university patent policy”

South By Southwest- Austin, March 12-18 (Presenting a panel about event screenings and attracting audiences)

The Conversation NY- March 27 “New business and creative opportunities” in film and media

Copyright, docs, Lessig, licenses

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Recently in The National Republic, Lawrence Lessig addressed the issue of copyright in documentaries and how it is keeping classic films like Eyes on the Prize out of commercial circulation. The problem is that filmmakers must clear copyright for archival elements in their work such as television clips and music, and generally the licenses for these clips is for a limited time period like 10 or 20 years. After that time, the filmmaker would need to clear (i.e. re-license) all of the archivals again in order to sell the work.

For most docs, this can be extremely onerous since the opportunity for revenue is small whereas the cost of the licenses is often significant.

I’m on the committee for the Women’s Film Preservation Committee through NY Women in Film and we worry about preserving the negatives of films that are decaying, fading, or otherwise in danger of being lost. But Lessig’s point is well-taken that without adjusting the issues around copyright, many of these films are effectively vanishing regardless of the quality of available prints.

Digital distribution has changed the meaning of copyright, and in some ways it’s made the original copyright holders more avaricious. They feel like they need to get all they can from television clips and music placed in films, as it’s one of the few reliable revenue sources left for content.

But Lessig’s essay prompts an interesting solution. What if, for example, there were some kind of limitation placed on the initial license period, after which all usage reverted to a straight royalty system based on percentage of the work? For example, if you used a clip of the Kennedy assassination in your film, you would have to pay whatever the market rate was for a 20-year license.

But after that time, you would have to pay a royalty to the rightsholder based on how long the clip was versus how long your film was against whatever revenue you received from the film, unless you got a deferral or consideration from the rightsholder. This could be used for music rights for fiction films as well, in theory.

What is the DVR of Indie Film?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

On his Blog Maverick site, Mark Cuban addresses the illogic behind opposition of the DVR by big media companies like Viacom and Disney.

For some reason they want to kill off the DVR… Do you not realize that the DVR is the one device that can save all things traditional and holy to your business and stock price?… Let me ask a simple question, if everyone had a DVR that could record any and every series they liked, enabling them to watch the shows they missed immediately, why would they go to Hulu ever again?

When new technologies come along and change the marketplace, the gut reaction of most established companies seems to be, “How can we block this new idea?” As I heard at a panel last night, “water is wet.”

For indie film companies with few resources, the challenge is to see the DVRs, the customer-friendly opportunities that are already emerging. A few companiesare innovating with VOD but have any really taken advantage of the new ways people are watching things from a marketing perspective? What about the technology that is already emerging is worth embracing rather than trying to send takedown after takedown to rapidshare sites? Will there be a technology, like satellite distribution, that makes theatrical super cheap? Or will there be a way to find out about and schedule the films, like theatrical TiVO?

Digital Watermarks: Can they save copyright?

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Everyone knows that illegal downloads can’t be stopped (except, maybe the MPAA, but they’ve been deluded for a while about speech issues). That could seem kind of depressing if you are a filmmaker who’s just maxxed out a few credit cards and hit up every friend you have making a movie with no obvious hope of recouping. Some people have said that we should just dump copyright altogether since it’s unenforceable. But copyright was created to protect artists who put their original ideas and execution into a work so that they could control how money is made from the work. This doesn’t seem like an idea that should be abandoned just because technology has changed.

One potential solution might be digital watermarking. Instead of DRM, which tried to determine where the content can be used, watermarking just tries to track where the content is going and what is its source. The watermark, which is invisible, can be embedded with other useful information like film title, cast list, synopsis, etc. so that it is desirable to retain for those exchanging the file. It’s a way for the filmmaker, distributor, or content provider to mark otherwise anonymous files as having a maker. The Digital Watermarking Alliance, an advocacy group for watermarking technology, commissioned a study that claimed that using a digital serial number rather than DRM would cause “Active sharing via file-sharing applications [to] decline by one-half overall, a little less among
BitTorrent users, a little more among P2P network users.”

Watermarks have their problems. They are relatively easy to break or “attack” though some argue that there is less reason to destroy a watermark than DRM since it doesn’t impede the user experience and in fact can enhance it. But once a file with a broken watermark is released to the downloading stream, it will propogate.

The ideal watermark would not ever prevent the viewer from watching the file. If a user attempted to remove the watermark, the file might become degraded. The same thing might happen if the file were altered. Of course, anything you can do to something digitally can be cracked. But if there wasn’t a motive for the average user to get rid of the watermark, it seems like it could gain traction.

In the future, it seems likely that the per-user costs really will be free or subscription-based. But commercial uses, i.e. the content providers, cable companies, Netflix, etc. who are making money from having the content, should still be on the hook. Watermarks might be a way to preserve authorship while keeping the files flowing.

Are the days of artists owning their work over, when work can be infinitely replicated? Should content producers just look for new revenue sources?