I had the sorry experience of watching two small children trying to watch a new DVD on a computer this week. It wouldn’t play. The DVD player was in good condition — it would play the “extra features” disk just fine. But the main feature didn’t show up when the DVD was mounted. This was a brand new DVD that a colleague purchased for the purpose of entertaining her children. She was not attempting to hack, rip, or otherwise defeat the protection scheme of the media. She just wanted to entertain her kids for a little while so she could work.
DRM rears it’s ugly head. Copyright protects the creative, right? I mean that’s why we have “Author’s Life Plus 90 Years” … Right? So the copyright holder gets the revenue stream in near perpetuity, Right?
Psst. Hey, buddy! You want your article published in our journal? Just send it over, we’ll protect it. We’ll vet it through our panel of experts. We’ll edit it so you look erudite. You can rely on us to make sure that nobody steals your work. All you have to do is sign this paper and we’ll be happy to make sure that nobody can use your work for the rest of your life plus 90 years.
I’m so relieved. Until I realize who’s included in that “nobody” bit.
Now how does that protect me? Where is the incentive for me to create more? Once the journal has the copyright they don’t even have to publish it. My work can be “disappeared” and I have no recourse. I can’t even put it on my vita or reference it in other works.
The reality is that copyright protects the copyright owner (the distribution channel) and in 99% of cases that owner is not the creative person who created the work because the first sale removes the artist from the equation. Some contracts include residuals, and in some cases the residuals can generate revenue streams for creative people. For some small number of individuals these streams can be large, but for the majority they are limited or non-existant.
The current copyright laws are geared to make sure that the little guys stay little and the big guys can get bigger. The people who gave us the TEACH Act and Digital Milleneum Copyright Act saw to it. The RIAA, MPAA, and that ilk made certain that the rights of “artists everywhere” would be “protected.”
We’ve come soooo far from “Hey, buddy. For $25 I can make sure nobody breaks your window!”
But the world is changing. Distribution channels exist on every internet connection in the world. We are not dependant on Sony for our music or on Disney for our video. We do not need Harper-Collins to publish our books. We don’t need ETR&D to publish our research. (Oops. Did I say that?)
AECT is casting about for a social good. Ya, overhauling Education is good. What about breaking the back of the restrictive convenants that are strangling the creative and artistic use of educational media for the benefit of a few corporate entities?
Support Creative Commons. Boycott copyright restrictions.
Update: I should read more before I write. Not sure how this slid past my radar, but if I’d seen it before I wrote this piece, I’d have cited it way earlier.