Thursday, April 30, 2009

IP expo part two

the MC for the stage show was really funny. Mostly intentionally, and some unintentionally. Some of the humor was that kind that I don't really understand. Probably because I (as well as other audience members) was the butt of it. Making people uncomfortable can be funny - not that I was uncomfortable but I pretty much had no opinion on that aspect of the performance. It involved him going through the initially sparse audience and asking people's names, and then making fun of them. When he got to me, he asked my name, and on finding out my last name is Mann, he spent a minute or so pointing out that I was not a man, asking if my name was really Man, and asking if people said "hey, Man" to me. I said they did. that was that.

But to return to my topic - IP week concert highlights involving the MC were many. He definitely was committed to talking about IP and educating people on the need to register and claim their IP. His theme was --once you register, what happens? and he tried to start a catchphrase: "Ch-Ching!" (this refers to the sound of cash registers). Or later, he extended it, and said once you copyright it you become... Ch-Chingable. Now, the extension of this phrase and concept is interesting, because it involved the mental leap that IP proponents rely on which is assuming that creative works WILL be bought and WILL generate money for someone. This assumption is based in other assumptions:

1) that this is because creative works SHOULD generate money through their sale/license
a. because doing creative work is inherently valuable
-which ignores that some creative work may be crappy,
-let alone the idea --which many Jamaicans are comfortable with-- that some creative work is actively harmful to society
b. and maybe relies on the idea that good works WILL be in demand
-which assumes that a market will value works appropriately

So yeah, many, many artists I have spoken with make a critique of bad music which is popular these days, and they appear to mean bad in terms of content and the effect on public morals. In some other conversations, "bad"'s meaning has extended into poor music-making through being unoriginal or even sampling, but for the most part case people were talking about dirty, sexual, or occasionally violent lyrics. However, these are undeniably popular. Even though many people aren't paying for those dirty lyrics - at least not in terms of buying recordings (or they are buying bootleg DJ mixes of the hottest tunes), but they are definitely attending concerts, soundclashes and dances in order to enjoy them. So what is the market saying? In fact many musicians say that the market, or radios, or people, love this bad music..

Another interesting moment came from the MC commenting on a fashion show of clothing made out of garbage bags - where he said be sure to register your work, designers!

I don't think even in Jamaica fashion designs can be copyrighted, certainly in the US they are not.

He also told models that if they develop their own particular walk they should register that too. This - owning a walk- is also not possible, as far as I know.

But also, the re-appropriation of garbage bags as fashion was interesting. what exactly could be ownable there? Can we imagine an example where the garbage bag manufacturer might sue? If not, that's interesting too..

3 comments:

  1. been following your blogs ms. mann ;).....really good food for thought...thanx

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  2. CHECKING OUR ASSUMPTIONS AT THE DOOR.

    Your writing is refreshing because it is clearly pretty astute cultural analysis, and it isn't cloaked in purposely obtuse language the way some overly academic writing is. (cough-cough-djspooky-cough-cough)

    This part is so accurate, and no-bullshit:

    "This assumption is based in other assumptions:
    1) that this is because creative works SHOULD generate money through their sale/license
    a. because doing creative work is inherently valuable
    -which ignores that some creative work may be crappy,
    -let alone the idea --which many Jamaicans are comfortable with-- that some creative work is actively harmful to society
    b. and maybe relies on the idea that good works WILL be in demand
    -which assumes that a market will value works appropriately"

    I have been seriously waiting to read that for years now. I can't believe you're not on the payroll of Megalithic Monoculture Corp, helping them eke out market share in the shambles of the music industry.

    I have to apologize in advance, because my comments are a tangent, and pretty much off-topic. But reading this paragraph really gets at something important to me. The music business at this point in time absolutely requires a complex view of a huge variety of economic social and psychological factors. But beyond the music business this is a bigger problem:

    There are so many people convinced of their own viewpoint, but operating under shaky assumptions... not only in the music business but in every aspect of human interaction. At the risk of sounding like a "cultural elite"-ist, I'm always amazed how little critical thought goes into peoples' viewpoints/decisions on so many varied issues. Like the forced simplicity of the Bush regime (granted an extreme example), people choose to demonize complex viewpoints. Or at least discount them as "mere intellectualism." I'd like to know the point at which our culture embraced the notion that complex thought is dangerous, wrong, or undesirable. Or worse, did our culture ever support it?

    A lot of folks don't have any interest in trying to unravel all these individual variables; they would rather leave all that complexity and relative thinking alone, and accept the word of some chucklehead who "listens to his gut." They don't want to look too closely at the strands of the rope they are clinging to, lest it suddenly vanish.

    My supposition is that with this mode of thinking, the rope is worse than vanished; we can still cling to the rope but it binds us to a future of hardship.

    The tragedy is that this kind of dangerously simplified thinking seems to be a default setting for people which knows no economic or social boundaries. It is also encouraged by our government and media.

    OK I'd better get off my soapbox before I have an aneurysm. ;^)

    Great writing. I realize this comment isn't really on-topic, but the wider notion of assumptions, particularly assumptions backed with money & power, is a big deal.

    I'm still holding judgment on Obama, but he gets points for being wise enough to know that a person who can challenge your assumptions is often someone to be listened to with an open mind, not tarred and feathered.

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  3. hi anon !

    your point about complexity is interesting.. In relation to IP I think it's really relevant, because I've always been amazed at how when the concept of "property" is raised people tend to get very absolutist.

    Once something is called property, many people seem to think all questions are settled and everything is about the owner.

    But this is not true, even for physical property -there are all kinds of situations, even in US property, law where the owner doesn't have the last word, or when owners themselves would see others as having equal claim. I think most people are much more flexible about property rights than they think they are.

    Also, historically, the meaning of property rights (and not just who has them) has been a subject of intense & bloody struggle. A struggle in which the poor and the colonized (among others) have often lost - and not only in the sense of losing ownership, but in the sense of losing the right to define what ownership means and the basis on which one can claim it.

    So yeah, when someone invokes a property right to end the debate, to me that's usually an invitation to go for simplicity over complexity. While sometimes these questions need to be settled, I think many people settle them too quickly without checking their assumptions and the systematic results of those assumptions..

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