Thursday, July 26, 2007

Surya Dub on Saturday and my new favorite car

don't forget Surya Dub this Saturday night at Club Six. Great guests like Dave Sharma and Irie Dole and Juju and the beloved residents skeleton crew! $5 before 10:30 $10 after!

my new favorite car, camera phone pic from Constant Spring Road. Nice spoiler!!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Linking and Thinking

crossposted at Jamaica Blog (more coming soon!)

Linking and thinking

I linked up with a friend of a friend(that cat helped Jamaica write its patent policy, with some of the same concerns I get into below about copyright). Andrea a woman involved in the roots music scene (who has also been a consultant for the Rough Guide to Jamaica and related RGs). She's great – I had a good conversation with her about the prison work but also about my future dissertation work. She seemed excited about the idea of someone coming to JA to listen to people's creative processes, to try to talk back to the colonial legal structure, and to the IP structure that wasn't written with them in mind.

I don't think Jamaica is unique (or no more so than every cultural scene is unique), I think it's a more dramatic case of what's true in the US and everywhere – people's creative practice bears little resemblance to what IP law seems to assume. Considering that a lot of IP law states its purpose as fostering creativity (for example, the US Constitutional justification for copyright), it would make sense to make sure we understand more about how creativity works, and thus how best to foster it. Anyway in JA the copyright law, recently re-written, is mostly shaped by the same old assumptions that were never really designed to foster the kinds of practices most common in Jamaica. There's a colonial narrative that works pretty well here, since the laws were not changed from the British system after independence (as if their purpose was somehow neutral) although some aspects of that are true the world over - I don't think assuming laws are neutral is helpful anywhere.

But anyway, it was cool (hot and sweaty actually) to sit on a porch in the evening surrounded by musical equipment. I also spent some time hanging out in a studio and witnessing people making music and talking about music in a way that just inescapably relies on a system of borrowing, copying, tweaking, and referencing. Of course, the other side is the deeply felt injustice of artists who are still living hand to mouth, while watching folks elsewhere profit mightily. Is that because their practices don't fit with law? which should be changed? the law or the practices? Can copyright law remedy this situation anyway? I'm not sure that's what it was written for, and I'm pretty sure that is not how it has historically functioned. That's one of my long-term plans - to understand more about the relationship between particular definitions of access and exclusion rights w/r/t culture and the ability for people to flourish.

But all of this is preliminary thoughts – and just the preface to my first real street party here in Kingston – Rae Town, a party that has been running for 30 years in a neighborhood in southern Kingston. more on that to come!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

bits and bobs, haps and mis

Heavy posting and long descriptions of scenes in Jamaica up at the Jamaica blog

Wayne gives a more audio-visual description of his time (all too short) over here, with more specifics of the big voices (Mavado and Munga being the biggest, possibly they are robots like I'm convinced T-Pain is), and big riddims in Kingston right now.

and here's the link to the main SET (Students Expressing Truth) website

and to the SET Prison radio in Jamaica info page (streaming of some stuff soon come)

We are currently being visited by the Antenna Alliance technical wize-ards, they're helping with the radio station and network oddities. Full house in New Kingston now! Despite the Ant Alliance's indie look, they are betting on JA to fill out some cc-licensed music storehouses for their all cc distribution networks.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cross-posted at my new Ripley in Jamaica blog, which has a lot of other posts up, by the way..

I guess this is the part of legal aid I'm finding scary. Not dealing with the inmates, who so far basically seem happy to have anyone there who cares to help them (sometimes maybe too happy, but hey, it's a men prison). What's scary is drafting legal documents that will stay here after I go, for the purpose of putting some decision-making back into the hands of the inmates, as respects the labor they do.

But it's also totally fricking brilliant, to have to think about this in a such a practical way.

The part of the SET project I am most connected with is that of the recording studio and radio station – currently there is no explicit or specific legal framework defining what rights inmates have against outsiders who engage with them or their music. Even though overall I am not a copyright enthusiast, I can see how copyright is an appealing legal argument, because it is an assertive property right you can appeal to against even the powerful.

Of course, everything about the creative process here complicates claiming a property right. DCS (Department of Correctional Services) technically owns the building, the SET foundation owns most of the equipment, although an outside NGO owns some of it. The Rehabilitation Through Music program is an SET program, undertaken courtesy of DCS. So there's a tangle of ownership of the material and non-material infrastructure.. Add in that inmates may be collaborating (as all artists do, heck as all people do), what rights do each of them have?

Then, to complicate it further if outside producers and engineers come in, they undoubtedly contribute something creative and important to the sound recording. On the basis of contribution, weighing the value of all of these is pretty difficult.

What is clear is the power imbalance – if an outsider comes in and records an inmate, and goes off with the recordings, legally the outsider might even be okay, because in Jamaica absent a written agreement the recording person is considered the copyright owner. But it feels terrible, to allow that to happen. It seems unethical based on the POSITION of the people involved.

This is what I've been feeling all along, that if you can't incorporate the positions of the people involved into your analysis, then you can't really be sure the system you are setting up is positive. In this case the freedom and power of the outsider, and the restriction and relative weakness of the inmate are at such opposite poles it seems dreadfully unfair to have the outsider profit, or have control.

Of course, a great many guys here are in for life, they are mainly interested in hearing their music spread. If an outsider can spread it, then that may be a plus for them. The traditional trade-off for copyright is that the labels will take care of what may be expensive, confusing work of distribution. Nowadays people are arguing the internet can counterbalance that, but I don't think that's so convincing for inmates in Jamaica.. That is where the Antenna Alliance comes in, of course, offering networks of promotion and distribution of CC-licensed music. That's why they are here in Kingston. It's an interesting experiment, I'm curious how far it goes this summer.

Another argument maybe against retaining copyright is the guys here may not be able to profit much from any money, even if there is any: it might come too slowly, or not at all. Some producers give payment up front, which is appealing to poor folks for a lot of good reasons. I'm wary of acting as if any copyright automatically equals royalties, because it's unlikely enough generally that I'm not sure it's a good context in which to make decisions.

I guess, along with the contextual, ethical issue, the main concern I have of giving up copyright is the lack of exposure if an owner decides NOT to promote the artist, then the artist can't try anything else.

I don't have any answers for now – right now the biggest challenge is fitting the contract on a single page so there can be no confusion later as to who signed what, no lost or separated pages..