Face Making

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

Why copyright and creativity are not separate issues

2012 . 06 . 07 - Comments / Commentaires (4)

Artists like to talk about creativity. It gives them warm fuzzy feelings to go on and on about this elusive and all-important aspect art-making, and they love sharing tips about how to fuel it in an art practice.

But bring up copyright while one of these sentimental exchanges is going on, and you might as well be announcing that the chocolate cake you brought to the party is sweetened with dates instead of refined sugar. You become a social outcast who must be shunned for espousing anything but the saccharine high of a heavily processed opiate.

painting of a pot bellied seahorse father

Gwenn Seemel
Keeping the little man barefoot and pregnant (Pot bellied seahorse)
acrylic on panel
10 x 10 inches
(For information about the making of this painting, visit this article.)

Whenever I try to inject some copyleft concepts into discussions about creativity, someone usually takes it upon themselves to say to me that creativity and copyright are two very separate issues. They assert this and give no useful explanation of their reasoning: it is fact.

Except it’s not.

Creativity is all about remixing the culture which surrounds us. It’s about standing on the shoulders of giants and being mature enough as a poet to steal from others.

You know what else is all about remixing, and, more specifically, about making remixing more difficult? Copyright.

If you care about creativity, you should automatically care enough to at least think twice before you slap a © on your work. And thinking twice is as easy as watching the documentary RIP: A Remix Manifesto, reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture, checking out my book You Share Good, or taking a peek at the articles and videos in this section of my blog.

- Help us share your art
- A letter to copyright warriors
- Austin Kleon: creativity, copyright, and superstition

CATEGORIES: - English - Practice - Uncopyright -

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(4) Comments / Commentaires: Why copyright and creativity are not separate issues

-- Kunvay -- 2012 . 09 . 29 --

We can definitely understand that artists don’t like to talk about creativity, but it’s actually something artists should be experts in knowing about. We think copyright has the ability to inspire more creativity by introducing constraint. Having to design around a constraint can actually lead to more creativity. We’re on a mission to make the world safe for creativity and so your blog post is of particular interest to us.  We love creatives, and a world filled with more creativity.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 09 . 29 --

Yes, absolutely, limitations are so useful for creativity but most especially when they’re self-imposed and chosen by the creative.  Copyright is a limitation placed on an artist by another artist or by a corporation who has gotten a hold of intellectual property.

Furthermore, culture has always evolved with copying.  Imitation is the mechanism for cultural evolution.  Getting in the way of that is deeply dangerous for art…and for the world!

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-- Kunvay -- 2012 . 09 . 29 --

Definitely valid arguments there. We agree that copyright does have it’s negative side.  The question that we have to answer as a society is if the benefits that copyright provides outweigh the consequences (and vice versa). We think of it less in terms of black and white, and more in terms of grey. 

Believe me.  We love a good remix - whether in art, music or word.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 09 . 29 --

What are the benefits of copyright?

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