Monday, October 17, 2005

Copyright act is not expendable!

On Sundays it has been a habit in our home for some time now to get an additional newspaper. On weekdays we subscribe to the Deccan Herald and on Sundays the addition would be the Asian Age. The Asian Age is a sort of pseudo tabloid in the Indian market. Not that it can compete with its illustrious overseas partners like The Sun or even domestic TV channels like Star News in tabloid-ness, there is a distinctly tabloid like feel to the content it carries. Nevertheless, the main advantage of the Asian Age on Sundays is the international content it has. They seem to have collaborations with many good international papers like The Spectator, the Washington Post etc, whose articles they carry in their sheets. They also carry cartoons from these international newspapers and this makes for interesting reading.

Yesterday, there was an article originally from the International Herald Tribune questioning the need for copyrights in today’s world. It started of by lamenting about how the copyrights act, originally stipulated to protect the creators rights was now a tool for big business conglomerates to extort money from customers and control the markets. The article also questioned the European and American legislatures which allows these conglomerates the rights to an authors work for “no less than 70 years after the passing of the original author” and how this was a hindrance to “democratic right to freedom of cultural and artistic exchange”. As I read through the article I found that the authors were there seemed to be some contradictions which I could not understand. Clearly, this came from a very communist school of thought and the language and tone were in likeness to the blatant rhetoric which the bad guys in Ayn Rand’s

Some points made were downright appalling. The authors cited the examples of people exchanging music over the internet, which by the way is considered piracy in most cases, as a fascinating development of people no longer accepting big businesses ownership of music and melodies. What was funny was that they went on to recognize all artistic initiators as entrepreneurs (which at first glance looked highly contradictory of the old communist dogma) who take risks by creating their work and that copyrights were used by these creators to limit those risks. It took me sometime to understand, but I understood that this was just the same old communist thought packaged a little differently. According to them they were firstly downgrading artists by calling them entrepreneurs and than as usual going on to say that as they were business men they should not make money or protect there business risks with mechanisms like copyrights.

The pinnacle of the articles thought was stored for the end. Their proposal was to do away with “protective layers that copyrights ensure” and “make this fatal blow” work. According to the concluding paragraphs of the passage, “If the protective layer that copyright has to offer no longer exists, we can freely exploit all existing artistic expressions and adapt them to our own insights”. Apparently ‘to exploit’ no longer has the negative connotation it had before. And by such exploitation the article further exuded that domination of cultural monopolies could be overcome and new perspective from new artists would emerge and they would be able to make a living of their work. Unfortunately it did not seem to consider the plight of the original artist whose work was exploited and adapted to suit others insights, unable to make a living as a result of such exploitation.

I had discarded the newspaper yesterday finding these above views as radically against mine, but today I was surprised to find the same article printed by arrangement with the International Herald Tribune in the Deccan Herald’s Monday edition! On similar lines was an article I read about how it should be made mandatory for everybody to adopt the tribal way of eating food and how it was all inclusive and by forcing people to not choose the food they eat, the world’s hunger problems could be solved. Well I am surely not looking forward to a world where lack of copyrights mean that cheap remix songs are what one aspires to hear and a hungry stomach would be forcefully filled by insects, worms and raw meat.

Asian Age, Deccan Herald.
International Herald Tribune:"Kill Copyright, let cultures remix again" Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schijndel novels generally dish out.

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