Thinking Unconstrained

Examining the world with a critical eye. Topics span a wide range including but not limited to, observations, insights, problems, solutions, proposals, and hypothetical scenarios.
"All right, everybody be cool, this is a robbery!" The message was clear. You needed to pay attention now to this rude spoiler of lazy Sunday morning breakfasts. This animal is intently and menacingly pointing a glistening handgun, no doubt silvered by his adrenaline-laden sweat gushing from his every greasy pore. From behind this fellow, another figure emerges - a woman. An angry red woman in a "just out of a maximum security psych ward" demeanor, erratically swinging on a cannon much too large for her little chihuahua frame . "Any of you <explicit material> move, and I'll execute every <explicit material> last one of ya!" Well, that's that then. Wallet or death. Two six shooter revolvers - 12 bullets - reloads in succession - nope, that's a guaranteed swiss fromage situation. How could it have come to this? I never would have thought that copyright hounds could be so vicious. We only took a 7 second audio sample from a song released 60 years ago, added a new drum line and then transposed it on an obscure film production enhanced with some deep-fake software. It's a substantially modified derivative of the original material, I tells ya! It's not like it's a painting of a trademarked canned soup. Nobody even knew these things existed, and now you want to destroy us because a significant number of people are watching our art and you want a piece of the pie? Looks like the all encompassing, all devouring, Rodent family is at it again, expanding its verminal turf and making a bloody show of grisly examples up and down the digital high streets. The impaler, the beheader, the cancelling mobster king of fantasy incorporated is exerting his influence and letting everyone know who's boss. We've been "served", see? "You don't do nothing for free, capichi?"

The cosa nostra dons, the crafty sorcerers, and the masters of illusion sitting on their holy-woods would like to hoard all the art collections for themselves and never let anybody else enjoy them. Perhaps a Fuhrermuseum, meine Herren? Caverns and warehouses full of film reels, all destined for decay as their shelf life is at most 70 years and nobody can access them because they're the private property of studios. Let a few of them out now and again in digitized form, unrecognizably modified and ruined using their corporate formulae, and let those art pieces of their dislike simply disappear and be scrubbed from societal memory. It doesn't matter if these films formed the backbone of the American cultural identity, nay the world through the twinkling magic wand of the place they call the playground of Angels. They're copyrighted. All fictions belong to the fictional institutions and fictional abstractions. Our culture is a corporate property, and it is whatever the unofficial ministry of entertainment tells us it is. And the ministry certainly does not want their viewers watching any old material of their choosing. That would be awful for their pockets. We the ever-hungry consumers must watch whatever the gate keepers let us watch. We must spend our time thinking about the things they want us to focus on. "Ooh, a piece of candy! Ooh, a piece of candy! Ooh, another piece of candy!" Monkey see, monkey do, it seems. But you know, some of us on the carousel would like to get off the ride for a bit and build our own amusements for a change.

For if the people are not allowed to create art using the things that make up their culture, then they must naturally reject that culture to be able to express themselves adequately. Either that, or there must be a recognition for the need and an avenue for reconciliation and an expansion of fair-use or other legal hurdles. If it is acceptable for artists to use existing art as their canvas, such as modifying a photo of a Chinese emperor by painting over it using psychedelic colors, then it should be acceptable for an artist to use an existing film and apply digital modifications to create new art. In a similar way, if it is acceptable for there to be remixes and adaptations to music, why not extend the right to make modifications to the existing tracks and release them under fair use? Surely the technical hurdles to ensure that everyone gets their dues/royalties/pieces-of-the-pie are already solved and hence this is only a matter of willingness to say "yes" to a new business model applied to a bygone media of history?
User avatar
By Sybilla
The bygone media that keeps on regurgitating itself as a copy of a copi of a coopi of a coupi of a coup? It's like watching the end of a digestive system of a constipated goat; pellets of little chocolate balls dropping to the floor, one batch after another; through an endless fanfare of awards and recognitions; given incestuously to each other, as if that was an objective affirmation of their greatness and their worth. Don't hold your breath for that rare golden nugget to squeeze its way out of this beast. The golden goose flew away many years ago. Only the scapegoats remain on the temple floor, just waiting for their appointed time, letting out a BAH and a MAH, and plopping and plopping and plopping. "Om namah shivay, Om namah shivay, Om namah shivay", prayed the little sacrifices as the master of ceremonies approached them with maleficence and lust in his bulging eyes - "KALI MAA SHAKTI DE!" - And there was much weeping and pleading, and of course buckets full of the red stuff gushing across the screen. Watch out Indie, lest you be caught by the cultists and their diabolical theatrics! Keep your whip and your wits about you! Your art belongs in a museum!

Or does it belong in a warehouse next to the box labeled "riders of the last lark"? Let us blow the dust off of these archaeological treasures and get them all publicly available before they disintegrate and become lost forever. Who knows what treasures the library of Alexandria may have held before its destruction? Who knows what treasures will be lost in the tombs of film studios? If the navel gazing executives and corporate tarzans are only intent on relying on brands, tried recipes, and mass merchandise consumption, then the powdered remains of their legacy and reputation are guaranteed to be dusted into oblivion. We might as well roll the credits now. It would look something like this - the big attractions of the season were adequately compensated - most of the people scrolling past were paid peanuts - the writers got the cold shoulder and weren't even invited to the premier - and the gits with the rights got the lion's share of the spoil. And the brand/product was dragged through the mud over and over and over until nobody could tell the difference between one muddy shape from another. In the end they were all just amorphous mud amoebas caked with dollar signs and smothered in chameleon corporate sponsor stickers - Mud Max... Or was that Mad Mud?

But you know, "there's no business like show business", or so they used to say. Indeed in this business, art is an "intellectual property", which is a ridiculous construct that only a capitalistic crook can invent, all in the name of protecting their financial interests and their "right to copy". Why not call it "artistic property", and "lawsuitright"? Or how about the "right to treat fictions and thoughts as private property and depriving any innovation whatsoever in an age where the amount of information in the world doubles daily"? Should fictional institutions form monopolies on fictitious creations so that they can have the fictional legal power to destroy the fictions of artists? Is this what art is supposed to be? A weapon of mass litigation? Behold the WML, the end of civilization. We'll sue our way into the stone age and maybe discover what it was all about by cave painting under crimson torch lights; dreaming of strange creatures and pondering the shifting dance of fantasy woven into the fabric of reality; in an infinitely fractalistic dimensional experience enclosed upon itself - this thing we call life - that we keep on trying to remind each other - of its beauty, its uniqueness, its precious mortality, and its divinity. Or maybe the Neanderthals should instead just stick to arguing about the value of that scribble on the rear hide of a water buffalo. It would be a more productive use of their time.
User avatar
By Candideto
Idealism has its place but practically speaking, everyone requires compensation in order to survive. Art needs to provide its necessary function but the artist also needs to live in order to create it. Therefore there has to be a price associated with any given work, and the creators must be given their fair due. When talking about non-tangible art, which can encompass anything that can be digitized, the means of enforcing a financial value on that IP has historically been limited. And this lack of technological trellis may have been instrumental in exasperating the tendency for legal strong-arming and inordinate preoccupation with monetary matters over that of merit. But this is no longer the case as we encounter the emergence of technologies such as blockchain, microtransactions, and NFTs. These provide the means to embed legal and financial information within the arts themselves. So how can technologies such as these be used for the benefit of the artists and the consumers?

At a very basic level, let us imagine a system where digitized art contains an identification used to point to data such as its creator(s), the legal "rights", the time and the place of its creation, et cetera. The identification does not have any useful information in a generic sense, such as people's names and bank accounts, but acts as a key so that it can be used to access external databases containing the actual pertinent information. For instance, ID "1234" would open a file cabinet containing all the information needed for that art. The information therein can be used to ensure that the consumer and the artist are directly connected in a transaction. The royalties and payments can be divided in an automated fashion according to the rules set forth in the payment system. A blockchain implementation would make the process distributed, and the database would be part of the art itself. However the general idea would still apply, and there will be trade-offs that will need to be worked out in the design phase.

Although the idea itself may be implementable, one must also ask, what is there to stop the art from being pirated and what is the point of doing this? One must assume that there is always a way to get around any system, as vulnerabilities exist in even the most impregnable fortresses. In the case of digital art for example, a very simple, crude, and effective way of pirating is to use an external camera. Anything that is outside the system is not bound by its rules, and hence the camera would be able to make copies without needing to bother with any of the security measures. Hence the argument for using this technology as a way of providing IP protection or other legal enforcement is not the correct way to view the application. Instead one must accept that the system will break, but that the consumer will want to use the system out of their own volition. And creating the environment for that consent and the willingness to prefer the system is the true key to allowing the digital art to sell. The honey catches more flies than the vinegar, says the old proverb. You can also continue to run around the room with a fly swatter, thinking that beating a fly is like beating a dog, cursing the wily creatures like a crazed loon. But that would just be a silly thing to do, given the alternatives.
The process of digitizing film or using an external camera to record a movie is inherently a lossy process, and the end product is always inferior to the original. So using the pirating example, the recorded digital art may have a lower sample rate, resolution, restricted color, contrast and a host of other visual and aural problems. But imperfections such as these can be repaired and the missing frames can be reconstructed using machine learning. That blurry face can be digitally enhanced using a series of best estimates by a suitably trained software, or that audio glitch can be smoothed over with another machine's series of best estimates. In this way, the quality of the recording can be brought back up to the quality of the original, all using off-the-shelf tools available to the public.

But if you were to go a bit further, you can do more interesting things such as, replacing the actors of your dislike with others of your liking. A masterpiece of a movie that was blemished by the performance of that particular actor can now be rectified by replacing his or her face with that of another. Or the poor special effects or CGI content can be smoothened over, as if applying restorative brushwork on old paintings. Or if you were so inclined, you could turn that old favorite canvas into a completely different movie by applying your own machine learning. You can even use it to transpose it to the comics medium, and add in your own art and dialogue. Make it into an electronic (or printed) adventure novel, add in your own music if you want, and allow the reader to interact and take part panel by panel. The possibilities are endless, but the legal restraints are disastrous.

At which point in the above examples of modifications, would "fair use" allow the artist to use the existing material as their canvas without fear of repercussions? And what would be so fair about it? If a terrible movie was to be improved by enthusiasts and fans, and they wanted to share the result with others, and be compensated for their effort, how is it fair for the tax collectors of the king to take every penny by force and hang the martyrs on the roadside as warnings against those who would threaten the tyrant's retentive grip on creativity? Must everyone beg on their knees for permission to create art? Must they always sign above the dotted line of that fine-print legal fabrication designed to favor the ones who were instrumental in the creation of those laws? Are such laws legal, or even sane? Why are we not allowed to draw two small spheres touching one larger sphere for commercial purposes? Why is it that a succession of 3 musical notes cannot be played in a certain way? To protect "businesses" and "rights"?

Yeah, right.
Your right, our right.
You're technically right.
But the situation is most certainly not alright.
The kids are bleating mad in the dark. The audience await their final fright.
Roll up the curtains, queue the lights. Show us that bright smile - salivating knives of delight.