Copyright, Artists and Continentalism

Posted by ryan griffis | Mon Apr 28th 2008 12:58 p.m.

i don't know what i mean with the title, but the reason for this post is: i was at a symposium the other day and a Spanish art institution director made a very passing remark to the effect that artists are the most strident defenders of copyright while cultural institutions are supporting copyleft/copyfight principles.
i immediately, and without realizing it, yelled out "are you kidding?"
afterwards, i approached him about this asking where the hell he gets his information and (snarkely) has he ever heard of creative commons and looked at its support base (while also acknowledging that CC is not exactly copyleft, but is certainly a practical move towards it for many).
His response was, "You are wrong. Artists do not support copyleft."
My response, "Huh? Yeah, you said that already, that's what I'm trying to debate with you."
He ended up suggesting that the situation in Europe was extremely different, with cultural institutions being largely state supported, thus generating a condition where cultural institutions (effectively, the state) benefited more from freely distributed cultural capital than artists. Of course, the context is different in North America, he conceded.
But that seems very narrowly defined in terms of "high" culture and doesn't really address the contradictions of how cultural institutions operate often on the cheap acquisitions of goods and labor. Artists, esp in the US are frequently providers of cheap (sometimes even self-subsidized) content and labor for institutions (including the many artists who work as preparators and handlers for, often, $10-15/hour, on call). The whole critique of web2.0 labor relations could be leveled at most non-profit art institutions in the US. Which isn't an attack on the orgs... i've been on both sides of the programming/content provider divide.
Maybe i'm just being lazy, but i'm wondering what the NA/EU folks on this list have to say about this. Any thoughts?
  • Rob Myers | Mon Apr 28th 2008 4:37 p.m.
    I don't think it's a US/EU split. Wikipedia, Linux, The Open Clip Art Library and other non-art projects are supported both in the US and the EU as part of very different economies.

    In my experience artists just don't support copyleft. I've no idea why not. I would honestly be interested to hear from artists why they don't.

    I once spoke to an artist who almost got funding for a show pulled because of rights issues with some found video material she was using. I suggested they copyleft their own video work to prevent anyone else suffering the same problem. They just couldn't understand the comparison.

    Even when artists do try copyleft they usually break it by adding the NonCommercial restriction to Creative Commons's ShareAlike licence. (See Negativland for why NC is bad: http://negativland.com/riaa/tenets.html).
    • Ethan Ham | Mon Apr 28th 2008 6:42 p.m.
      My experience is that folks who Creative-Commons their work are usually pretty accommodating and inclined to share their work (otherwise they wouldn't have bothered CC-ing).

      Whenever I've asked for a particular CC-term not to apply to something I using in one of my projects (the share-alike can be particular problem with sourcing multiple CC-items, each using a different set of restrictions), license-holders have always agreed. The CC-license is really establishes the most restrictive limitations from which exceptions can easily be made... so having non-commercial as a starting place seems fine by me .
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