«Principal Editor Professor Brian Fitzgerald Head of School of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Australia With the assistance of Jessica ...»
creativity that are in common with each other? When you look back you can count them on less than two hands: Ancient Greece, the Greece of Socrates – what was it about incredible turbulence that produced so many ideas? Not just Socrates, the pre-Socratics, and going right on to Plato and Aristotle. Sure there were slaves and they did a lot of housework, so the men had more time. If you are my age you are supposed to be so dominated by text. According to some today’s trendy, exciting, new generation is visual and musical. I do not accept that, because in the end we come back to something even more basic, which is conversation.
Socrates invented democracy, but he never wrote a book. As far as I know he never wrote a line – he had dinner parties. But what if Rupert Murdoch’s Fox was there and he bought the rights to those dinner parties? Would we be in touch with the ideas of Socrates today and would other philosophers have been able to come along and build on Socrates’ ideas? This idea of sharing and collaboration is absolutely vital to what we are talking about. I am all for providing an incentive to creative artists and I do respect to a point, intellectual property. But surely there is an incentive to disseminate, to be creative and to disseminate what you think is important and to impart knowledge. I think that this incentive overrides the financial one.
What other ages can you think of? We will skip through Christianity and Islam, but if you think of Elizabethan England we have exactly the same.
We do not know who wrote Shakespeare and if it was Shakespeare, he sure workshopped a lot. It is a very collaborative environment that nurtured all those brilliant poets, including the genius of Shakespeare and the Shakespearian era.
When next are you going to think of? Maybe the Renaissance, when people again started to talk to each other, collaborated. In fact, just to give Christianity its due, St Francis of Assisi started talking to the birds. He reconnected Christianity with nature, for the first time since the whole of the Dark Ages. Giotto painted images that helped to kick start the Renaissance, which was nothing more than a huge conversation. Half the works that are painted by so-called masters probably were not even painted by the masters, but no one seemed to be quite so uptight back then.
In my student days artists were the creative people – a very small elite group at university. They had to have duffle coats, long hair, smoke a bit of pot, smoke a lot of pot, and get government grants. I was really shocked when I found out that one of Leonardo de Vinci’s best friends was an accountant. I thought, “gee, I got all that wrong”, but actually it was the accountant, Pacioli I think was his name, who invented double entry bookkeeping. There you are. Even the accountants were creative in the Renaissance.
Think of Paris at the turn of the century, think of the jazz era, New York and how could I not even mention the Sixties? Love it or hate it, these are creative periods, a lot of social and political change, and what is the core value in those periods – collaboration, sharing. The music of the Sixties is not just about the content. The Beatles were a bit more generous about sharing than has been indicated. In fact two of them wrote a song for the Oz trial and the music was much more collaborative. That is the whole idea of festivals.
Having music festivals was to try and, not very successfully, close a bit of gap between the musicians and their audience. The street took fashion back from the couturiers. No one went to Paris in the 1960s. Vogue was forgotten, it was Mary Quant and what people wore down at the Chelsea Antique Market. Politics of protest was much more about not having particular leaders but sharing ideas and thinking of very creative and inventive ways of protesting the war in Vietnam. If you saw a picture of, for example, the CIA/Vietnamese guy shooting the suspected Vietcong, that would be in the Sunday papers. A magazine like Oz could get that picture, put blood all over the face of that unfortunate victim and put on a headline which said something like, ‘The great society blows another mind’. You could communicate. You could respond, as has been said here this morning, respond to the culture around.
One of the flowerings of the 1960s, apart from the music and the fashion and the sexuality and the drugs (the point about marijuana was that it gave people a sense of community and collaboration, we can argue about the long term implications of that, but that is what it was about) was cutting through this idea of the isolated genius in the garret, the huge ego. We are talking now about the late 60s and early 70s. What happened – technology changed. There was cheap printing, cities all over the world could consume incredibly cheap newspapers and magazines all through the United States and Europe, Australia, even South America. And that is not all. There was something called the UPS, which is not the United Parcel Service, but the Underground Press Syndicate.
In other words, any newspaper that thought of itself as being radical anywhere in the world could use articles from any other newspaper
anywhere in the world for free. In fact Oz magazine went one step further:
we abolished copyright altogether. We just said that anyone who contributes to Oz – you have just got to let your copyright go. It did not stop anyone from contributing and it did not hurt the sales of Oz. If I had not done that, I would have been able to retire onto a gorgeous island somewhere in the Pacific. I am proud of that. I am not advocating the abolition of copyright at all, but I am saying it did not really bring the walls down.
Tariq Ali, another 60s radical who has not yet dropped off the perch, came out here and reminded me that he had a newspaper called The Black Dwarf, which also published all this stuff and, in a way, did not take intellectual property too seriously or copyright too seriously. One day he opened his mail and there were the songs written for us, a song called ‘A Street Fighting Man’ by Mick Jagger. They had printed it on the front page for anyone to use or record. I said, “what did you do with the lyrics?”, and he said, “oh, I tossed it in the bin”. There was a certain sense of disposability.
In this cauldron of late 60s was Rupert Murdoch. He had moved from Australia to London. A darker side of the 60s looking back at them now, was of course, sexism. Some of the images in Oz were of nude ladies. I was amazed to read in one of the histories of Murdoch recently published, that Murdoch flipped through Oz magazines, saw a topless girl and said, “we should have something like that”, and he made it the ‘Page 3 Girl’ in The Sun, and it made his fortune. He did not pay us anything, any money for the ideas, and he is the one charging $10,000 for the four (4) seconds.
We have a situation today where the documentary Outfoxed uses internal memos by people at Fox Studios to outline how the news would be shaped that day. It was more or less a directive. Murdoch actually took legal action to try and stop those being used in the film. He failed. What is the slogan of Fox Media in the States, does anyone know? –‘Fair and Balanced’. First of all that is a black comedy in itself, but are you aware that Rupert Murdoch tried to copyright ‘Fair and Balanced’? By an inch, he failed. But the next time something like that will succeed, and there is a danger of entering an age where people will, and corporations and very rich people with an incredible retinue of lawyers, will end up owning words in English dictionary. That is not all that far fetched. On some of the art that we saw today that was screened in the presentation, the political art, in other words the remix, how many people in this room had seen some of that before – quite a lot. And you saw it on the Web presumably? And there is a ton of that stuff and even more amazing stuff called Flash Art, which uses a type of cartoon which is hard to copy and show.
What concerns me about that material being locked out of public discourse at the moment is that it is only available to people with a certain amount of Web curiosity and prowess. I think it is a completely fantastic way of communicating and I do think it supersedes text and cartoons in delivering a message of dissent in our day and age. But until we can construct a means where that material can be broadcast more easily, then what is going to happen is that the dissent will remain locked up in a rather small group.
That is the danger of what is happening now.
I said earlier that creativity and collaboration was becoming a hugely admired thing within the corporate world right now. If you take a big company like Siemens, one of the sponsors of QUT in some areas, it is a great big, German organisation, but highly creative. Seventy-five percent of the revenues of Siemens comes from products and services only invented in the last five years. That is 75 percent and that percentage is rising. They do not let researchers work alone, they have innovation groups and they are very into the future. They use collaboration like a lot of corporations to encourage creativity and diversity. Yet, while it is used internally in corporations, in terms of the broader discourse, a lot of creativity is being locked out.
We had the statistic this morning that 67 percent of artists, or creators, feel absolutely happy about their work being modified. The point I am trying to make is that, to me, the bigger issue here is: what is this debate? What is this issue between intellectual property and the Creative Commons? What is the deeper meaning of it? In a strange sort of way, it is paralleling other kinds of bifurcations that are going on and it relates to the spirit of the age that we are inhabiting right now. Just as, whether or not Australia and America sign the Kyoto Protocol. That is an issue bigger than just the environmental politics of it. It is to do with sharing, and participating, being together on a journey.
One of the most remarkable things about the response to the tsunami disasters in our region in the Indian Ocean is that it was the citizens of the world who led the desire to contribute, the willingness to express their compassion financially. Never let it be forgotten that the first offer that Australia made was something like $35 million. That was the first offer John Howard made. The first offer made by George Bush was $15 million.
That was about 3 or 4 days after it started. And then we got a lecture on US generosity. Blair did not come back from his holidays for quite a long time.
The point about all this is that, by the time their policy advisers had worked out what was happening, the citizens were already doing it, the citizens of the world. What did they know, what were their feelings, what were the conversations they were having with the rest of the world, either metaphorically or real, that enabled them to respond in a way that seemed to indicate a different kind of spirit of the age that we live in? That sometimes we have to sacrifice something to gain more. There is an old spiritual teaching: the more you give, the more that you get. And we are locked into situations now of personal interest and of national interest. But in a globalising world the national interest must ultimately be subservient to the world interest.
I am trying to say that the problem is not about stealing; it is about sharing, and it is about understanding that everybody profits by liberating creativity and letting collaboration stalk the planet. In short I think that it is a very vital and hopeful signal about the spirit of the age that this Conference is happening because we are really locked. We are all members of the human race and the future of the human race is a race between self-destruction and self-discovery. And for the self-discovery of the human race to be successful we must have a Creative Commons.
PROFESSOR RICHARD JONES
Although I haunt academic corridors these days, I am primarily a filmmaker and it is this perspective I bring to these discussions. What I have been thinking about is how Creative Commons might engage independent film makers in Australia. My particular focus is not on where I think Creative Commons flourishes, which is in its potential to help emerging film makers get their work out into the world. Instead, I have been looking at the independent film sector, which is governed by funding agreements, cast and crew awards, up front distribution contracts and, in general, more traditional approaches to IP. This talk is based on interviews with a small but productive group of Melbourne film makers, many of whom spent the time politely biting my head off, particularly when I outlined the more utopian, indeed evangelical, ideals and rhetorical strategies of Creative Commons. Filmmakers are, by nature and profession, a suspicious lot. To quote Dorothy Parker, when approached with ‘an exciting new idea’ the first thing we must ask ourselves is – “what fresh hell is this?” In the light of the enthusiastic language used by leaders of the Creative Commons at this conference, in particular our North American colleagues, this talk is going to feel a bit like mentioning a pre-nuptial in the throes of passion. If you have almost hit the heights, please just hold on for a moment while I outline some difficult issues we need to grapple with first.
The people I interviewed have made over 30 publicly funded films each, with many national and international awards and wide distribution, mainly television. We are deeply involved in film making as a practice, as a passion and as a political action. We are the type of people who would ordinarily be quite engaged by the ideals of the Creative Commons. But film makers also tend to see trouble a mile away. We have a sort of professional radar. You have to anticipate problems all the time in making films, and we are often approached to participate in other people’s grand schemes, many of which come to nothing. As nuts and bolts folk the rhetoric used to promote Creative Commons means little. What really means something is: what are the practical implications? What are the problems? What solutions? How do we take the next step? As they say in China: “talk doesn’t cook rice”.