Most People Feel It Is Okay To Share Content

TorrentFreak reported last week:

One of the most comprehensive studies into media sharing and consumption habits in the United States and Germany reveals that nearly half of the populations have copied, shared or downloaded music, movies, and TV shows. Sharing occurs both on- and offline, but the latter is seen as reasonable by most people. The report does, however, reveal that online file-sharers consume more music than their non-file-sharing counterparts.

Today the American Assembly, a non-partisan public policy forum affiliated with Columbia University, published its long-awaited Copy Culture report.

The study is based on thousands of telephone interviews conducted in the United States and Germany and provides a unique insight into copying habits in the two countries.

“The study suggests that most people in the US and Germany recognize the constitutive dilemma of copyright as a set of tradeoffs between rightsholders and the public. And it provides a snapshot of where ‘most’ people are in trying to reconcile these tradeoffs with the digital age,” author Joe Karaganis told TorrentFreak.

Read the article here.

The "No Endorsement" Mark - A Simple Solution For A Complex Problem

"If there’s one thing the file-sharing wars have taught us, it’s that there’s more profit in figuring out how to let honest people do the right thing than there is in chasing down cheapskates who don’t want to pay up – especially when the anti-cheapskate measures make life miserable for the honest cits," so says Cory Doctorow, and he's come up with an interesting way to encourage fan merch of On Demand Objects (ODO), while making life simpler & better from those that inspire the action (generally the copyright holder).

Definitely read Cory's whole article, as it has great implications for filmmakers looking to extend their universe beyond a single product (i.e. film) or wanting to encourage collaboration among the community, but in a nutshell, Doctrow lays it out:

what if there was a mark that indicated that the creator hadn’t endorsed a product, but was still splitting the take with the upstream licensor. For example, if you wanted to make your own 3D modelled action figures derived from one of my novels and offer them for sale, you wouldn’t need to get my permission – you could just add the ‘‘no endorsement’’ mark to the product and send me a fixed percentage of the gross. Ideally, this would be a high percentage without being punitive, say 25%.

Here’s how that could work: tens, hundreds or thousands of fans with interesting ideas for commercially adapting my works could create as many products as they could imagine and offer them for sale through i.Materialise or Shapeways. There’s no cost – apart from time – associated with this step. No one has to guess how many of these products the market will demand and produce and warehouse them in anticipation of demand. Each product bears the ‘‘no endorsement’’ mark, which tells you, the buyer, that I haven’t reviewed or approved of the product, and if it’s tasteless or stupid or ugly, it’s no reflection of my own ideas. This relieves me of the duty to bless or damn the enthusiastic creations of my fans.

But it also cuts me in for a piece of the action should a fan hit on a win. If your action figure hits the jackpot and generates lots of orders, I get paid, too. At any time, we have the option of renegotiating the deal: ‘‘You’re selling so many of these things, why don’t we knock my take back to ten percent and see if we can’t get more customers in the door?’’ Setting the initial royalty high creates an incentive to come to me for a better deal for really successful projects.

G'head, PROVE I Don't Have The Right To Copy Your Work!

As Variety has reported:

U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton's decision against Viacom and in favor of Google and YouTube placed the onus on copyright holders to identify specific instances of infringement and then inform websites to remove the pirated content. If the sites do so promptly, they are shielded from liability.

Citizen Media Law Project

As their site explains:

CMLP's legal guide is intended for use by citizen media creators with or without formal legal training and focuses on the wide range of legal issues citizen and online media are likely to face, including risks associated with publication, such as defamation and privacy torts; copyright; trademark; access to government information; newsgathering; and general legal issues involved in setting up a business and finding a web host. You can access the guide here

Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities is important for anyone who publishes online. The CMLP's legal guide addresses the legal issues you may encounter as you gather information and publish your work. The guide is intended for use by citizen media creators with or without formal legal training, as well as others with an interest in these issues.

Tribeca Film Fest Shout Out On Tax Credit Stall Out

The good folks over at Tribeca asked me to post on the NY State Film & TV Tax Credit debacle.  So I did and surprisingly I was able to come up with a few more things to say...

Read the whole post on their blog.  Let me know your thoughts.
My gist is we all have to be a hell of a lot more vigilant about the issues that may effect us if we want to be able to earn a living working in this field.  I list out a starter course, but really the question is what can we go to dinner on?  And let me know what you think I left out.
Here's the menu:
Net Neutrality—Our ability to access and distribute work and ideas, organize around it, is dependent on this core democratic principle.

Media Consolidation—The lack of an antitrust action has created an environment that is virtually impossible to compete in.

Labor Union Stability—The unrest of this year across the guilds has helped no one.

Copyright Law Revision—The rules are antiquated, protecting corporate interests over the creators, while limiting the audience's access to new art forms.

Copyright Protection—The blatant disregard for artists' rights across the Internet make a bad situation even worse.

Government Funding For The Arts (or lack thereof)—The only work artists can expect to be compensated for are the most blatantly commercial endeavors.

Social Network Rules—The Draconian control different networks exert over user content does not bode well for community hopes of sharing information and content.

Data Portability—Everyone’s right to the information their work generates is a necessary principle if artists are ever going to have a direct relationship with their audiences.

Demystification of Distribution and Exhibition Practices—The last twenty years were about demystifying the production process, but there will be no true independence unless the cycle is made complete.

Exhibition Booking Policies and Practices Revision—Distributors require exhibitors to book on full weeks, restricting their ability to become true community centers, providing their audiences with what they want, when they want it.

New Blood Recruitment for Distribution and Exhibition—Since virtually all of the specialized distribution and exhibition entities are run by people who came of age in the days of pure theatrical exhibition, they yearn for a return to those days and are resistant to new practices.  Or are they?  

Ratings Structure—The current system is not applicable to the diverse work being made today.

Loss of Film Critics’ Old Media Platforms—Our critics were our curators, letting audiences know what to see when, and now most have been fired. Where will our new curators be found? We’ve started HammerToNail to help audiences find the best in true indie American narrative work, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Filmmaker Re-education for this New Media Universe—Let’s face it, we are all a bunch of Luddites. Until we recognize what tools are available and how to use them, we are depriving both ourselves and our audiences from the quality of work we all deserve.

Creation of Indie Film Promotional Portals—How can we see good work when we don’t even know it exists?

Broadband Availability and Strength—America lags behind the rest of the developed world not just in terms of broadband penetration, but also in the quality and level of that broadband service.

Digital Film Archive—As more and more filmmakers move to a digital medium to both originate and finish that work, how will this work be preserved for future generations?

Indie Film History Archive—The history and process of how this work we are now creating will be remembered will be impossible without some joint effort to preserve it.

The Google Book Supplement

Scott Macauley over at the Filmmaker Magazine Blog hipped us to this podcast.

Link to it here.
Host Jonathan Kirsch, an attorney specializing in intellectual property and publishing law, moderates a panel discussion on a landmark literary-legal settlement. It allows Google to scan and make available online many out-of-print but still-copyrighted books. The settlement portends a viable digital future for authors, publishers and libraries. Is there any downside?

Lessig's New Copyright Rules

Unfortunately Lawrence Lessig doesn't make the rules, but we are lucky we have him to fight for us.  Last week he published five recommended changes to the copyright law designed to help those who create to continue to create.  When the law starts to do the opposite of what it was intended you have to wonder.

Deregulate amateur remix: We need to restore a copyright law that leaves "amateur creativity" free from regulation. Before the 20th century, this culture flourished. The 21st century could see its return. Digital technologies have democratized the ability to create and re-create the culture around us. Where the creativity is an amateur remix, the law should leave it alone. It should deregulate amateur remix.

What happens when others profit from this creativity? Then a line has been crossed, and the remixed artists plainly ought to be paid -- at least where payment is feasible. If a parent has remixed photos of his kid with a song by Gilberto Gil (as I have, many times), then when YouTube makes the amateur remix publicly available, some compensation to Mr. Gil is appropriate -- just as, for example, when a community playhouse lets neighbors put on a performance consisting of a series of songs sung by neighbors, the public performance of those songs triggers a copyright obligation (usually covered by a blanket license issued to the community playhouse). There are plenty of models within the copyright law for assuring that payment. We need to be as creative as our kids in finding a model that works.

Deregulate "the copy": Copyright law is triggered every time there is a copy. In the digital age, where every use of a creative work produces a "copy," that makes as much sense as regulating breathing. The law should also give up its obsession with "the copy," and focus instead on uses -- like public distributions of copyrighted work -- that connect directly to the economic incentive copyright law was intended to foster.

Simplify: If copyright regulation were limited to large film studios and record companies, its complexity and inefficiency would be unfortunate, though not terribly significant. But when copyright law purports to regulate everyone with a computer, there is a special obligation to make sure this regulation is clear. It is not clear now. Tax-code complexity regulating income is bad enough; tax-code complexity regulating speech is a First Amendment nightmare.

Restore efficiency: Copyright is the most inefficient property system known to man. Now that technology makes it trivial, we should return to the system of our framers requiring at least that domestic copyright owners maintain their copyright after an automatic, 14-year initial term. It should be clear who owns what, and if it isn't, the owners should bear the burden of making it clear.

Decriminalize Gen-X: The war on peer-to-peer file-sharing is a failure. After a decade of fighting, the law has neither slowed file sharing, nor compensated artists. We should sue not kids, but for peace, and build upon a host of proposals that would assure that artists get paid for their work, without trying to stop "sharing."

This was in the Wall St. Journal.  It's gotten a lot of play in the blog world already, but I've been a bit swamped lately.   Lessig's got a new book coming out, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive In The Hybrid Economy.  Let me know if you've read it and what thoughts you have.

Music Vs. Film : Copyright Control Comparisons

I was reading over an article on BBC News on the state of the music business.  

Film people never like comparisons between us and them (Music vs. Film), but I find them useful.  Film vets dismiss the comparison of Music vs. Film over a couple of issues: 1) cost of motion picture production; 2) cost of motion picture marketing; 3) cost of the product; and 4) length of time required to listen/watch.  You can hear a song in two minutes for free and have a complete experience.
I think dismissing the comparison often comes down to seeing the Film Biz as 100% Hollywood.  It's true that's where the money is made these days (outside of distinct national industries and genres), but we do have potential to develop a true alternative now -- that is provided the internet can remain truly free and neutral.
In the BBC article, they cite a panel that took place between Jazz Summers, the manage of The Verve (and a proponent of artists' control of copyright) and Lyor Cohen, the head of Warner Music (and a proponent of corporate control).  Cohen stated the big money perspective:

"It's very important for us to own those rights if we are going to have an infrastructure around the world of thousands of people, if we're going to invest in new artists to create new music and promote and market it."

Cohen's perspective is also the Big Money Perspective on Film.  But here's where it's important to recognize the difference between Big Money Hollywood & Traditional Indie/Specialized on one hand and Truly Free Film culture on the other.  
Truly Free Film will be built on collective endeavor and an open source perspective on information and information sharing.  Those attitudes and subsequent action will build a new infrastructure that will allow Truly Free Film artists to earn a living.  The Truly Free Film Culture infrastructure will not be dependent on Mega-Corp investment.  
In a Truly Free Film Culture, there is no argument for anyone other than the artists owning their copyrights, or at least sharing in them with their investors.