Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

A letter to copyright warriors

2015 . 03 . 26 - Comments / Commentaires (5)

- -—[version française]—- -

In the last week or so, my RedBubble journal has been plagued by a couple of copyright advocates, one of whom is being especially condescending in his comments. It’s annoying, to be sure, but it did inspire me to write this letter, so I suppose it’s okay in the end.

To anyone who passionately defends copyright and adamantly believes that it is good for artists, this is what I have to say:

You are not the intended audience for the articles and videos I make about free culture. With that in mind, if you choose to comment on them anyway, please be respectful. I’m not aiming to aggravate you with my opinion because I’m not aiming to engage with you at all.

Also, please know that I haven’t placed my art in the public domain on a whim. I’ve arrived at my position after years of study and careful reflection, which, I hope, is how everyone forms their opinions about copyright. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s something we can agree on: most creatives could be thinking harder about copyright, and we’re both inviting them to do so in our own way!

Still, were we to have a conversation about copyright, it would almost certainly be both painful and fruitless. I regularly check in with what copyright advocates are saying because I care about your arguments, but I refuse to discuss it directly with you anymore because the potential for vitriol is too draining.

All of which is to say: let’s talk about something else instead! I’m certain that we have plenty of other things in common.

Gwenn Seemel

an illustration from You Share Good

I have some guilt about this letter. I don’t like to cut off conversation, but, in my experience, the majority of copyright warriors are not able to talk in a productive manner on this topic. I used to try to engage with them, but mostly they are just so angry with anyone who disagrees with them that snide remarks and personal attacks feature heavily in their discourse. No one needs to be talked to like that so I choose to head it off.

(To the minority among the copyright advocates who can discuss things amicably, I am sorry to draw this line, but there it is.)

Gwenn Seemel

an illustration from You Share Good

All that said, I’m also proud of this letter. It shows that I know precisely who my audience is for my free culture stuff: I’m writing and making videos for all the creatives who mostly ignore copyright because it seems too boring, unnecessarily complicated, or completely irrelevant. I want to inspire them to dig into it more and figure out what they really believe.

Gwenn Seemel

an illustration from You Share Good

I’m fairly certain that my success as a free culture advocate stems from recognizing who I am making my content for. Understanding who is on the other end of the articles and videos helps me to make them better.

And that’s a good lesson for me where the rest of my art is concerned, because, in a more general sense, I’m fuzzier on who my audience is. Hopefully, though, I won’t be for long. This letter to copyright warriors is making me want to write similar letters to other groups who are not part of my audience so that I can better understand who is.

- The copywrong in my own backyard
- My TEDx talk! / Ma conférence TEDx!
- Whose brand is it? / La marque appartient à qui?

CATEGORIES: - English - TOP POSTS - Business of art - Uncopyright -

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(5) Comments / Commentaires: A letter to copyright warriors

-- Asta Lander -- 2015 . 03 . 26 --

Gwen, I can only imagine the flack you must receive. I share your Ted talk on my personal page before I made the decision to follow in your footsteps. I have had a few interesting private messages (from lovely artists… truly wonderful, generous people) who are unlikely to ever take this path. I ponder why we feel this fear… why we hold things so tightly… what that does to our soul.
Go in strength sister. I am walking this path with you (a bit gingerly, but I am there).
Asta x

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-- Libby Fife -- 2015 . 03 . 27 --


I always enjoy the fact that examination and reflection are at the bottom of all that you do. (It seems that way at least from my end.)

Keep doing what you are doing. It’s important I think to, well, think!

PS-I heard a podcast by US rep. John Lewis in which he said to “love the hell out of your enemies.” I think that is an apt way to frame many struggles.

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 03 . 27 --

@Asta: Since I mostly stopped trying to convince warriors of my point of view, they usually give up fairly quickly. It’s not as much fun to poke someone if they’re ignoring you. That said, not engaging with the pokers is a discipline in itself! And I’m not always that good at it, depending on where I am in my activism.

It takes courage to stand up for what you believe, but it’s easier when your voice isn’t the only one. Thank you for adding your voice to the questioners!

@Libby: “Love the hell out of your enemies.” So true. And it’s probably the source of much reflection. You have to relate the people you disagree with in order to fully understand their position and, in that way, fully understand your own.

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-- Sun -- 2015 . 03 . 30 --

Well said Gwen, loved your post!

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-- Gwenn -- 2015 . 03 . 30 --

Thank you, Sun!

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