Join Smita Kheria at 1.50pm, Wednesday 16th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe venue 7) to discuss the necessity and future of copyright.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Edinburgh. Feminist. Former amateur DJ.
How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?
My CoDI show is derived from research I conduct on copyright ‘law in action’; as opposed to just ‘law in the books’. Mainly I have been investigating whether copyright continues to play a useful role in creative practices. The show is inspired by fieldwork I conducted at the Edinburgh Festivals in 2014 and 2015 when I interviewed various writers, illustrators, comic book artists, visual artists and performers to find out what is the relevance of copyright, if any, in their everyday creative lives.
Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?
The topic is dangerous because it delves into the question of what would happen if there was no copyright, and relatedly, whether or not copyright currently has a positive role in today’s post-digital society. Dumping copyright might, on the surface, sound like a good idea, but the idea actually carries dangers with it because copyright protects both creative works and the livelihoods that many creators successfully derive from them.
If copyright disappeared, would we all really be able to ‘freely’ download and share all the content we like (e.g. Game of Thrones episodes, Harry Potter books, and Ed Sheeran songs)? Or, would other restrictions perhaps replace said copyright law and be even less desirable? Additionally, without copyright, would artists continue to create content and pursue financially sustainable creative lives? Would a sufficient number of artists continue to create so that we can continue enjoying reading, watching, listening to new creative content? And if so, what kind of artists will they be?
Perhaps most dangerously of all, without copyright protecting creators and their works, will large corporations like Google benefit more as they will be able to scoop up mountains of “free” content that they can then monetise ?
Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?
A cursory look at popular media demonstrates that not only is copyright protection highly controversial but also an issue that polarises opinion, and although we mightn’t often think about it, copyright is ubiquitous. In fact, it intersects with our lives on a daily basis.
Whether or not you are a professional content creator or producer, you are still likely to be regularly engaging with copyright protected content: watching videos on Youtube, taking photographs to share on Instagram, reposting a funny comic or illustration you found online on Facebook. The examples are endless (and they are not limited to the digital environment). If you are a professional content creator or producer then you will be routinely dealing with copyright in the various contracts and agreements you enter into (not as simple as it sounds).
Yet, copyright is more controversial today than it has ever been. The very ability to easily create, edit, and share copyright content has raised questions about the role of copyright. Do we need copyright when it poses restrictions on this process of creation and sharing? Do content creators really benefit from copyright? Is it an unjust monopoly?
Why is the topic important to you?
Copyright is a complex issue. It is important to me that research is used to examine the nature of the various myths and misunderstandings that have built around copyright, and to also properly assess if copyright can, or in fact does, play an important role in the lives of creative practitioners.
Describe your show in 3 words
Three pictures instead?
Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?
Because they will go boldly where no Fringe-goer has gone before!
At the largest arts festival in the world, the unenlightened Fringe-goer will see many artists and enjoy lots of creativity. As patrons and consumers of art, they can learn from my show, whether copyright law matters to artists, creativity, and society, or could we live without it.
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