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Creators vs. Creativity

March 12, 2008

Creators vs. Creativity[1]


Lessig’s discussion of creative use is very good.  He uses as examples Walt Disney’s parody of Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. and the use literature in the doujinshi style.    He (in my opinion) brings up a good point in noting American law also draws a distinction between works that are copied and those that are sufficiently different, and therefore not a violation of copy (Lessig, 2004, p. 26).


The Internet too is a relatively new and vibrant medium of exchange.  As sound to supplement video recordings was new in 1928 we are now seeing many individuals and groups attempting to organize methods for use for the Internet.  Some of those interests are for profit in the form of currency while others appear to be interested in profit from various indirect methods.  In some instances “profit” is the mere pleasure and self satisfaction of the creator.  Regardless, the Internet as a means of generation of wealth are becoming more viable.


As I come across websites it is apparent that Lessig’s question: “How free is this culture?” becomes more important (Lessig 2004, p. 30).  For instance I see students make mistakes by cutting and pasting” from time to time.  At one time a couple of years ago this temptation became so prevalent that I was required even at first year class level to begin an integrated study of plagiarism and minimal levels of documentation to provide sources for ideas developed and material used.  This has evidently become so prevalent and perceptively important to our culture that certain software makers now sell software to education institutions to check for “similarities” in works.  Several software are available on the market, while some are freeware.  For Example Turnitin is a trademark for a particular software designed to assist in plagiarism detection. < >  I must admit that this is somewhat perplexing.  As an instructor, I have as my primary goal to teach and encourage and edify others to use their mind and think and be able to apply that thought to circumstances in this world around them.  I want them to some degree to test the water, their minds and try new ways.  I am not a law enforcement officer, although to some degree all instructors are charged with duty to preserve order and proper process.  Perhaps a much larger and critical question to ask is “How far can we legislate society?” while encouraging society to be creative.  Ability to self regulate is one important aspect of socialization.  Even though society has government law enforcement we rely by and large upon the dominant ideology of the society to erect barriers to behavior and encourage “proper” normative conduct.  Education, religion, family add to the ability to self regulate behavior and make known these processes.  However, as segments of deviation from the norm increase in incidence the propensity may be that over time the norm adjusts or changes.  Often in law enforcement the critical question a law enforcement officer or agency must ask itself is “how popular is the activity that we seek to prohibit”.  Perhaps in the past the conduct was not as popular, but in the present because of any number of factors the population or a major segment begins to participate in the conduct (burning CDs on the Web).  So, the next question is “How do we stop this?” or “When do we stop enforcing current laws against the conduct?” and/or maybe even change the law?”  With an unregulated Internet we are currently having to address these needs.  We have a generation and a portion of at least the previous generation (baby-boomers) which are used to “cutting and pasting” and “borrowing” and “free exchange” of information.   This trend has continued to grow since the “point and click” software came prevalent.  Timing is critical to change.  For instance, when will it become so “ingrained” that as a natural right we as a society make concrete the concept that “anything on the net is free”?  Does this ability become habit or right?  There is much discussion regarding the need to regulate the Internet for safety, content, collection of tax at both local and federal level and to preserve private property rights as well as privacy of the individual.  If this is important; can we wait too long, and loose the opportunity?  Will this be bad, or will loosing the opportunity to regulate lead to greater creative use of concepts? 


Creativity is much like having someone proof read your term paper.  No matter how many times it is proofed no doubt some small change can be made, or an inaccuracy revised or corrected.  In other words it is much like social research.  Conclusions should lead to further testing and examination.  We should try new things against old principles.  The ability to take a concept and manipulate it, to test it and search for new ways to use it may in some cases give invaluable information to people and society.   As Lessig points out what is a “fair” use of something in order to enhance the benefit to society while protecting the originator’s work product and mental processes?


Following is a website that might be interesting for further discussion.

[1] Lessig, L. (2004). Free Culture. (Creative Commons Edition). New York: Random House.


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