Daily News Online

Wednesday, 27 July 2011



Art of copying, a fundamental part of life

“Man is an idiot. He doesn’t know how to do anything without copying, without imitating, without plagiarizing, without aping.” Augusto Roa Bastos, (1913-2005), noted Paraguayan novelist had said.

“...copying is pervasive in contemporary culture....copying is a fundamental part of being human...we would not be human without copying.......is a part of how the universe functions and manifests...” I copied this from Marcus Boom’s ‘In Praise of Copying’ (Harvard 2010). And I copied the entire book free, from the internet.

“All creative work is derivative. human culture evolves through copying.” said Nina Paley, Artist in Residence at QuestionCopyright.org. “The whole history of human culture evolves through copying, making tiny transformations (sometimes called “errors”) with each replication. Copying is the engine of cultural progress. It is not “stealing.” It is, in fact, quite beautiful, and leads to a cultural diversity that inspires awe.”

There is a Latin phrase, “Nihi sub sole novum”. There is nothing new under the sun. “ut nihil ne- que dictum neque factum, quod non est dictum et factum prius”. There is nothing which is said or done, which has not been said or done previously.

Gabrielle Kennedy reported on the Copy/Culture Symposium which was held in Berlin last month, where designers and philosophers and Media personnel exchanged views on copying and reproducing designs and creative works and technology. Henk Oosterling of Erasmus University Rotterdam had summed up that “copyright culture makes no sense.... China has little need to protect copyright of others...”. Nicolas Bourriaud “.... removing one’s ego from the work and understanding that once a product is released, it is no longer the designer’s. Ownership becomes ambiguous”.

The Danish artists SUPERFLEX (Rasmus Nielsen, Jakob Fenger and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen) have used open source concept in real life situations. They have opened the ‘Copyshop’ where they use ‘Copy Right’, the consumer’s right to customize rightfully purchased products. ‘Supercopy’ is where a customer creates a new original from an existing copy product.

‘Creative Commons’, founded in 2001, with a mission to “provide a free, public, and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the internet and the reality of copyright laws”, because they believe that “the Internet is a multiplier of cultural innovation”

Man has always copied from nature. He copied nature in his earliest cave paintings, in his sculptures and probably in his music and dance, and we continue to do so. Our own ‘Vannam’ dance forms were copied from the dance of animals. Our scientists continue to study animal behaviour to use them in their technology, they study the chemical composition of pl

ants and animals to develop new medical products.

Copying has been and will always be a part of human nature, and it is a human right. It is only when commercial interests overtake nature that attempts are made to stifle copying, that Copyright laws are formulated, to safeguard commercial interests. Such laws benefit only big business, and not the poor powerless creative artist. That is how Mickey Mouse earns over $ 3 billion a year by extending the period of copyright, and has been enjoying the monopoly since 1923. Even the song “Happy Birthday to you” is copyrighted till 2030 in the U.S. and in 1990 it was valued at US $ 5 million, unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid for it. In one specific instance in February 2010, the royalty was said to amount to $700.

If there had been a copyright and patent law from the earliest times, the man who first discovered fire would have held on to it, without sharing it, so would the man who discovered/invented the wheel. It would have delayed cultural ‘development’ and man’s ‘progress’ by a few thousand years.

“Borrowing is ubiquitous, inevitable, and, most importantly, good. Contrary to the romantic notion that true genius inheres in creating something completely new, genius is often better described as opening up new meanings on well-trodden themes. Leonard Bernstein’s reworking of Romeo and Juliet, in West Side Story is a good example.” (Chris Sprigman, Counsel to an Antitrust Group in Washington, D.C)

All our mass media depend on copying news and features from other media. When one television channel begins a new program which catches on fast, every other channel copies it, without any hesitation.

We copy our clothes, our food habits our music and paintings from other cultures. We copy our religious rituals and practices and even beliefs from other religions. Thomas Jefferson believed that all art should belong to the public. For him, the public domain was a large, thriving democracy, while copyright was a fat king thousands of miles away eating puddings and meat pies. He was against copyright and said himself, “Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property,” but finally had agreed to compromise and include the issue of patents (and, by interpretation, copyright law) in the Constitution. (Lloyd Kaufman with Sara Antill)

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” Though Jefferson was a slave owner, he had probably not considered creative works as property to be owned.

“As we look ahead, the field of openness is approaching a critical mass of adoption that could result in sharing becoming a default standard for the many works that were previously made available only under the all-rights-reserved framework. Even more exciting is the potential increase in global welfare from the use of Creative Commons’ tools and the increasing relevance of openness to the discourse of culture, education and innovation policy.” (Introduction to ‘The Power of Open’)

Let all ideas and all knowledge be free and openly accessible to all mankind.



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