Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Permission Culture" and it's Restrictions on Art

In Lawrence Lessig's article "The Failure of Fair Use and the Future of Free Culture", Lessig points out that our culture has become a "permission culture" that restricts the creativity of the general public. This means that in order to mix media for art's sake, one must first obtain permission from the copyright owners of the media that is being mixed. At first glance, this may seem like a reasonable thing to expect; however, this greatly restricts the creativity that the general public possesses. It would be nearly impossible for a person of average income to be able to afford to ask permission to use a song or a movie clip in a home-made video project. Alas, this is what the law demands. It is easy to see how this greatly limits the digital artist. This "permission culture" is becoming more prominent as technology advances. Today, the average person has easy and affordable access to countless media as well as software that is capable of mixing it. However, even though almost anyone has the capabilities of making multimedia art, the law strictly forbids it with the exception of fair use.

A couple years ago, I picked up the hobby of mashing video game cut scenes or clips from anime cartoons with some of my favorite songs to create music videos. So far, I have made 5 AMVs (anime music videos) and have spent countless hours in the production. First, I decide which game or anime that I want to turn into a music video. Then, based on the game that I decided on, I pick a song that I feel matches the mood or storyline. After deciding the basics, I start to experiment in Windows Movie Maker (I realize that this is an outdated software that is poor quality, but it meets my needs without me having to purchase any new software). After hours of production, the end product is, in my opinion, fantastic. Naturally, I want the world to be able to see the art that I have created and so my first instinct is to upload the video project to Youtube. The video that I am most proud of mashed the song "Blue Lips" by Regina Spektor with cut scenes from the Kingdom Hearts series. The lyrics of the song match the storyline of Kingdom Hearts so well, it's almost eerie. The scenes in the video that I made transition with the beat of the song, and the lyrics match what is being show in the scenes. Overall, I am extremely proud of this creation.

Despite the amount of time that I put in this video as well as the fact that it was purely artistic, the video was almost immediately taken down by Youtube because of the copyright laws. As stated in the article, we are part of a "permission culture". It would seem ridiculous for me to have to ask permission from Regina Spektor as well as the creators of Kingdom Hearts to be able to post this video because they are unreachable and would not spare a moment to listen, but this is what the law requires. Copyright laws greatly restricted my ability to share the art that took me so long to create. I had no intension of making a prophet off of the videos that I created, and I stated in their descriptions that I did not own the rights to the song or the cut scenes that I used. I simply wanted to share what I had created. As a studio art/film major, I take great pride in my multimedia art, and it is disheartening to know that no one will be able to view my art unless I show it to them in person. Oddly enough, Youtube recently allowed all of my videos to be public because they matched third party content. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I am extremely grateful for my art to be able to be viewed by a public audience.