Secondary Creators

I’ve already said a lot about Free Culture. I just want to make 2 finer points: the one made by Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute in his video above, and another slight variation on this idea of “secondary creators.”

Copyright is a cultural compromise: instead of letting a culture make the most use of a work, we limit the access / use / rights of a culture “for a limited time” so the “creator” can make a profit on the work. We “put the brakes on culture” because we worry that without a greed motive, creative people might not create… so to insure that culture moves forward, we voluntarily limit our access.

As Sanchez expresses in the video above, one problem with this is that when the Remix is the dominant artform of your age, incentivizing creators has the somewhat unintended consequence of criminalizing “kids singing the songs of the day.” Maybe we shouldn’t outlaw this “swimming in pop culture”… and as Sanchez suggests, maybe allowing/encouraging this cultural dialog is even more important than incentivizing “first creators.”

The other, similar point, is that peeps create stuff… then later peeps “remix” that to create new stuff. It’s not just YouTube videos, it’s all of culture. It seems reasonable to give the “first creators” some rights… but the more you give them… the less rights to create you give the secondary creators. And, isn’t every first creator… Also a secondary creator?

With the possible exceptions of Albert Einstein and Plato, I’m pretty sure every act of human creation has built heavily on prior works. Indeed, the two most important innovators of the last thousand years, Johannes Gutenberg and Tim Berners-Lee, their culture changing, consciousness changing, paradigm shifting, works of cultural innovation are highly derivative!

Lucky us, with licensing tools like GPL and Creative Commons, we have new opportunities to move culture forward. And now that *everybody is a creator, we don’t really expect to get rich off this blog post, do we? I think we just want a little “attribution.”

Definition of “everybody” – a few years ago about 1 of the about 6 billion humans on earth were “wired” — “wired” = “have a voice in the Read-Write network culture of the 21st century” (sort of)

Today in mid-2010, almost 2 of the almost 7 billion humans on earth are wired: about 26.6%. Yes that means 3/4 of humanity “doesn’t have a voice” atm… but it none-the-less also means that more human beings have a voice on 5 July 2010 than on any previous day in all of human history. That’s something worth celebrating. That’s a cultural gift worth “paying forward” with open permissions.

Second Life is, in fact, not a bad place to think about these ideas. Whether it’s a labor intensive thing like an airbrushed-from-scratch high-quality skin, or a simple, lightly twisted prim or simple pose… Open or “Full Perm” works make cultural progression possible, No Copy or No Transfer or No Mod works eliminate the possibility of Secondary Creators in Second Life. A la “Free Beer & Free Speech,” it’s not just that I can take Eloh Eliot skin files, manipulate them, and save myself a few Linden Dollars… it’s that I can make new forms, new variations, things that are impossible with any limited permission skin. Limited forever in fact, since SL has no expiration on copyright. As an artist, it additionally means I can wear one copy of that derivative skin in a solo performance… or take it to Burning Life and hand out copies of it to however many dozens of peeps wander by to join in our Flashmob.

In Second Life, Full Perm is an invitation to be a Secondary Creator, to pass culture downstream. Partial Perms is selling a product that is a dead end at the user. No innovation. No cultural propagation.

Some people believe that without this profit incentive, no one in Second Life will create. I believe that as long as the profit incentive is absolute and forever preventing Secondary Creation, as SL Perms do, that there will never be cultural propagation in Second Life, and it will always be a cultural ghetto that must import new forms and new ideas from the outside world because there is no propagation of ideas in-world, only importing and locking.

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

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