Why I’ve Taken This Side in the Copyright Debate

A lot of our projects (like Take a Picture and DRM Box) poke fun at intellectual property. We do things to challenge, subvert or outright mock copyright and content protection.

Why do we take this side of the copyfight? Aren’t we artists? Don’t we benefit from these things?

I take the stance I do because of stories like this: Guy Gets Bogus YouTube Copyright Claim… On Birds Singing In The Background | TechDirt

Companies like Rumblefish claim copyright ownership of birds chirping in the background, and profit off of ads that are placed on these videos, depriving the actual content creator of income. And this isn’t a one off mistake. TechDirt has talked about this same company doing the same thing back in 2009.

Rumblefish has a long history of making false copyright claims against people.

They do seem to eventually drop their false claims after getting a ton of bad press, and being mocked publicly on BoingBoing, Reddit, TechDirt, Google’s own help forums, and Slashdot for several days, but the problem remains: Companies with long histories of profiting by abusing artists and creators go unpunished. And while the issues are being resolved, they are profiting from work they have falsely claimed as their own. This is not a minor mistake on their part; This is mass-piracy for commercial purposes.

According to American law, making a false copyright claim is supposed to be punishable by perjury.

So where are the charges?

As an artist, it absolutely disgusts me that companies push for laws that not only enable censorship and erode our right to free expression, but they also make it harder for me to create. Then they demand ownership of my ideas, strip me of my ability to make a living, try their damnedest to avoid paying me, and claim to be doing all this in my name.

You do not speak for me.
You do not represent my interests.
You threaten everything I stand for and believe in.

That’s why I’ve taken this side of the Copyright debate.

From a Quick Laugh to Frustration

If you’ve been paying attention to this place, or any of the social media venues I frequent, you’ve probably heard quite a lot about the “DRM Box” project Brad and I have been working on.

But it’s been dragging on for months now, and I’m getting a little frustrated, so here’s a little behind the scenes scoop on the project.

The DRM Box was originally envisioned by me as a quick, week-long project to post online as a little internet joke. In my eyes, it just had to be good enough to hold up to video, then we would be done with it. Brad insisted that if we are going to do something, we should do it right, using nothing but the best materials and fabrication techniques for the job. It should be treated as a sculpture, where everything must be perfect, so after the video is made, we have a sculpture that is gallery-worthy. This is a situation where I do think Brad was right. This is art; we aren’t cranking out mass-produced wares for consumption, we are trying to make a unique object to express an idea that we are passionate about, and doing our best work is important.

Of course, going from, “just tape some crap together and hope it sticks together long enough for the shoot” to, “it must be perfect” necessitates a bit of a schedule correction. So, we went from a scheduled week-long build to an estimated month-long build. Then something big came up and my personal schedule changed, cutting out our free time together to about one third of what it once was.

These two factors lead to a project that started to really drag on and go nowhere for a long time.

But, this was ok, because we had a gallery show lined up for the project. The extra work was all worth it. They would be shown in a gallery after all!

Then the show never materialized. I don’t know what happened, but the show fell through.

So here we are, 10 months later, with a project that is well built, and it will be used for a quick little video, then put aside as we get to work on the next project.

But when you spend this much time with a project, when this much effort has been put into it, it becomes hard to treat it like a quick joke. It starts being something that you take seriously. And because we have been talking about it for so long, I fear the audience might also have begin taking this project seriously. I am worried that as far as the DRM Box Project is concerned, the humour is lost.

When a Project Just Doesn’t Go As Planned.

Phase 1:
Kyle: “Hey, this will be unbelievably awesome”
Brad: “It wont work”
Kyle: “Sure it will!”
Result: FAIL

Phase 2:
Kyle: “Well, this wouldn’t be as awesome as the original plan, but it would still be pretty cool, and it lets us salvage some materials”
Brad: “I don’t think that would work”
Kyle: “Sure it will!”
Result: FAIL

Phase 3:
Brad: “Well, I guess we could just do it this way, it’s passable, and means we wouldn’t have wasted all this time…”
Kyle: “Yea! that will totally work!”
Result: FAIL

Phase 4:
Kyle: “Whatever, we’re artists…let’s just do this and BS our way out of it when people notice the shortcomings…hmmm…no, I refuse to go down that path, lets just burn it now, and never speak of this again so the world never finds out about our failure this winter”
Brad: “it’s on facebook, tee hee hee”
Kyle: expletives deleted

Talking at TIFF: What it Took to Prepare Our SoOnCon Talk

Ever wondered exactly what it takes to put together a 30 minute presentation?

Brad and I knew that the opportunity to speak at SoOnCon was something that is unlikely to happen again any time soon. We also knew that we had nothing to talk about. We had given a lightning talk at Toronto Mini Maker Faire just months earlier, and we haven’t really done any new projects since then. But we still really wanted to do something.

I was on the phone with Brad, pacing around my apartment, trying to throw ideas back and forth, but nothing was coming to mind. Our conversation wandered off on some bizarre tangent. Then we started complaining about how horrible artists are, and how terrible a lot of art projects are. That’s when a little light bulb clicked on in my brain.

I suggested, “why people hate art”.

We frequently have long conversations about this very topic whenever we get together, so generating material wont be a problem. We’ve experienced enough art-BS first-hand to burn through 30 minutes without having to prepare a thing! This talk would be little different than any of our normal meeting, with one little difference: instead of ranting to each other in private about how horrible the art world is, we will be ranting in public! Brad thought I might be on to something. He prepared the application form and sent it off. We received our acceptance notice the next day.

That meant that we had to get to work.
Continue reading Talking at TIFF: What it Took to Prepare Our SoOnCon Talk

The DRM BOX: Rough Copy of the Promo Video.

This is the same rough copy of the promo video that I put together for the DRM BOX. Since we planned on showing this video during our SoOnCon presentation at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I had to have this video done and ready to go.

This has been sitting around quietly on YouTube as an ‘unlisted video’, but it’s been two weeks now, why keep it locked up?


My SoOnCon ReCap

Being given the chance to speak at SoOnCon is simply too good of an opportunity to pass up. Having that event take place at the TIFF Bell Lightbox makes the experience that much better.

The work that went in to getting ready for this talk will be the subject of another entry. This post is about the event itself.

I arrived an hour later than I had wanted to. I missed the first few talks. Alex Leitch had started by the time I entered the building, and I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ who barges in half way through and disrupts everyone. Instead, I sat down in the hallway and put together my slide show.

I went for an extremely simple black-background-with-white-text aesthetic, because most PowerPoint presentations suck, and I wanted to keep it as simple as I could. Plus, I was using Libre Office, so any fancy stuff I did was unlikely to turn out right after being converted to .ppt format. The slides were more of a reminder for Brad and I than fancy visuals for the audience. Our talk was a series of short stories, and each slide was a key phrase that reminded us of that story.

I sat through several lightning talks as I got my own presentation in order. I felt bad for working during someone else’s talk, but I knew I’d feel worse if my own talk failed due to lack of preparation. Just moments after finishing the slide show, a fortunate turn of events landed my way: the talk going on in Cinema 5, the room where Brad and I would be presenting, ended 10 minutes early. That meant we had time to copy files over to the presentation computer and do a tech demo, set the levels, get the sound working, and make sure there would be no hiccups along the way. I took care of all that stuff without any problems.

Finally, I could relax and just enjoy the presentations. I bounced from room to room, catching whatever seemed interesting. I hadn’t really slept the night before, so my exhaustion made it difficult to get as much out of the talks as I should have, but I still enjoyed much of what I saw.

Then, it was time for my talk.

Continue reading My SoOnCon ReCap