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.

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

What I’ve got going on: Blue-Chip Show, TEDx, SoOnCon

Last year at this time, I was frantically working to get “Take a Picture” finished in time for it’s big debut at Nuit Blanche. Brad and I were spending an average of 18 hours a day hand-etching circuit boards, inserting components, soldering, and assembling. Between the two of us, we made just over one thousand boards.

When I wasn’t building, I was typing. I tried to get in as many blog updates as I could. The idea was to plant some digital seeds by writing about the issues that Take a Picture was attempting to tackle. That way, I would be mentally prepared for the questions that would undoubtedly arise throughout the course of the evening. These posts would also serve as a landing pad for interested spectators. If people really like the project, we owe it to them to ensure that there is more content available for them to look up later. Never launch an idea or project without first building the infrastructure to support it. This way, on the off-chance that the idea made it big, I’d be prepared for it.

During the event itself, it was decided that we would not be participating in Nuit Blanche in 2011. It’s not because we had a bad experience or anything like that; we just missed seeing Nuit Blanche ourselves. We were stuck in front of our project the entire night, unable to see any other work. We didn’t want to become disconnected from the experience of participating in Nuit Blanche as art fans.

In the days that followed, the reviews were harsh; too many projects were artists responding to other artists, there was little for non-insiders to enjoy. I fear that if I spend all my time presenting art, I will lose that powerful and direct “This is what I want to see, damnit!” attitude and start producing empty fluff. I don’t want to produce empty art fluff, I want to keep on making cool stuff. I hope this doesn’t sound conceted or egotistical, but I like to make art that I would like to see. So this year the plan was to do nothing. I’d Sit back, relax, enjoy some free time leading up to Nuit Blanche, and hit the sites in ‘art spectator mode’, I’m not going to have to do anything.

That was the plan. The next several paragraphs deal with with why that isn’t going to happen.

Continue reading What I’ve got going on: Blue-Chip Show, TEDx, SoOnCon

End of the Day Wrap Up for Maker Faire

At the end of day one of Toronto’s first Mini Maker Faire, Brad and I record a quick video recap, expressing our thoughts about the event.

I also take a moment to shamelessly plug our photo book, Illuminated Landscapes.

It was a long day, I was very tired, and goofing-off with a camera running always cheers me up. (until I watch the footage several days later and continually shutter at just how bad most of my jokes really are…)

Continue reading End of the Day Wrap Up for Maker Faire

A Last-Minute Fix Before Maker Faire

One of the things I like about blogging is how it gives people a back-stage pass to the mess that is going on just out of sight to make the show possible. It allows people see just how thin that veneer of professionalism surrounding an artist really is.

I have this theory that artists actually aren’t all that weird. They are just severely sleep deprived whenever they are showing their work, because something always pops up at the last minute and requires a long night of building something so the show can happen.

I had just that experience myself at Toronto’s first Mini Maker Faire. (Really! I’m not always that twitchy, grumpy, forgetful, and out of it!)

The venue provided some interesting and unforeseen challenges for installation. Set-up went on for much longer than expected. When the project was up, I realized that our invisible paintings were being washed out, and I had to do something. I took my project down and moved to a darker spot, which was slightly better, but not perfect.

Upon returning home, I constructed some sun shades for my paintings. My words can’t properly describe the situation and my state of mind. Luckily, I made a brief video documenting the experience (and my sleep vs. caffeine levels).

Continue reading A Last-Minute Fix Before Maker Faire

Our Lightning Talk from Maker Faire Toronto

Back in October of 2011, Brad Blucher and I were invited to give a lightning talk at Site 3 at some point in the future. After numerous delays, the talk was scheduled to occur during Toronto’s first ever Maker Faire.

On my way to the stage, I handed my camera to a friend and asked him to film our talk so I could post it to YouTube. Here is that talk:

Continue reading Our Lightning Talk from Maker Faire Toronto

A Whole Lotta Blog Love

Half of being an artist is what takes place outside the studio. No one is going to randomly knock on my apartment door, just to see if an interesting artist happens to be living there. Marketing and promotion matter!

The most labour-intensive project I have been involved with to date is my collaborative project with Brad Blucher, Take a Picture

A few days ago, I was talking to my friend Jonathan (a maker of fantastic things) and he suggested that I try submitting Take a Picture to the Make Blog and Hack a Day.

Long story short, this was wonderful advice, and it started a snowball rolling, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Continue reading A Whole Lotta Blog Love

Illuminated Landscapes: Free PDF Version Available Now.

If you are a regular here, then you’ve probably heard about Illuminated Landscapes a series of photographs by my friend Brad Blucher and myself.

I’ve hinted about the project three times before. But no more vague teasers!

We’ve edited down the huge archive of images into 80 photographs. These 80 photographs will appear in our new 80-page photo book Illuminated Landscapes, which will be available soon.

While we are still waiting for the hard copy version to arrive so we can apply our seal of approval and put the thing up for sale, the free digital version is available now!

That’s right, the free version is out before the “must pay for it” version!

The free digital version contains the same set of 80 images that appear in the physical version, and is presented as two separate PDFs. (one portrait, the other landscape)

To receive your free version of Illuminated Landscapes, all you need to do is send off an email to:

Continue reading Illuminated Landscapes: Free PDF Version Available Now.