|Title:||Copyright and Digital Art: Through the Looking Glass|
|Citation:||Kheria, S., 2012. Copyright and Digital Art: Through the Looking Glass. Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper, (2012/19).|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The study uses qualitative data collected from interviews with 17 digital artists.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||Yes|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
Copyright promotes creativity. Copyright hinders creativity. These statements reflect the contested nature of copyright, today more than ever before. The last twenty years have seen rapid advancements in digital technologies and information and communication systems. These advancements have had profound effects on creative activities: the process of production, dissemination, exploitation and consumption of creative output has changed; opportunities for novel ways and forms of creation, representation and manipulation of information have arisen; and, the attitudes and behaviour of creators and consumers of creative output and a host of intermediary participants in the process have transformed. As a result, copyright law has faced considerable and persistent practical challenges in adapting its contours to the digital environment. More importantly, the role of copyright, as a framework for regulating creative activities, has also come under scrutiny.
What then is the role of copyright law in the everyday context of new and emerging creative activities -- that are borne out of the very copying and distribution technologies that have challenged copyright? How do the creative practitioners involved in such activities relate to copyright law? This chapter explores the interaction between copyright and the everyday life of artists in the digital environment. It focuses on the role of copyright in the every day context of a specific creative activity: digital art practice. It draws upon the findings from a qualitative empirical study, consisting of in-depth interviews with digital artists in the UK and Ireland, to peer ‘through the looking glass’ at the perspectives and practices of digital artists and finds ‘a messy wonderland of copyright in action’. A wonderland where: artists challenge and resist the law’s default positions and policy’s dominant presumptions, artists are informed and influenced by multiple elements and contextual factors in their process of meaning-making and decision making about copyright, and, artists face moral dilemmas and are pulled in different directions with respect to their perspectives and decisions regarding copyright.
Section II of this chapter contextualizes the study and outlines the methodology employed. Section III and IV presents some of the findings from the study to demonstrate how the interviewees were challenging ownership and valuing authorship and illustrate how a variety of factors influenced the artists’ understandings around copyright. Section V provides concluding remarks.
Main Results of the Study
The overarching perception amongst the interviewees was that copyright was “indifferent” to and not useful for individual artists. They held very strong opinions on copyright which displayed a general disenchantment with the purpose of copyright, as well as suspicion of copyright law, while admitting and lamenting that they may lack accurate knowledge of copyright law. Scholars have argued that various types of rhetoric (copyright benefits authors, copyright exists to incentivize creativity, the romantic view of authorial creation, and economic analysis of copyright) can be quite powerful and have been routinely used by stakeholders, other than creators, to gain support for strengthening and extending intellectual property rights. The findings demonstrate that the interviewees were knowledgeable of some of the critical discourse on copyright law in the popular media and this contributed to their scepticism as to the value of protection offered by copyright law to creators as well as its wider purpose. Instead of buying into the rhetoric, the interviewees were questioning it.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
When laws are based on instrumentalist claims without solid real-world evidence, they risk losing legitimacy. An unduly restrictive copyright system which does not meet the needs of creators or consumers, who wish to copy and use works protected by copyright, can trivialise the law for them. Similarly, copyright protection, which does not meet the needs of the creators whom it aims to protect, can also lead to scepticism about the law. The interviewees’ own meanings and images of the law that they had internalized in their creative practice illustrates that copyright law and policy in this case implied little for those whose creative practice it aimed to govern. As such, a challenge for copyright policy making is not just to increase awareness of the law and access to works for the users of the system, but to ensure that it retains the faith of those whom it primarily claims to benefit: the creators. The interviewees were clearly not convinced that copyright was working for creators’ benefit. However, they did not discount that it could. For the copyright system to support creativity, it requires the confidence of its stakeholders, in particular the creators who ‘must see it as appropriate, effective, fair and reasonable.’ For the copyright framework to be effective in supporting new and emerging creative activities, the first step could very well be to regain legitimacy and confidence about its potential role and relevance amongst digital creators.
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Individual|
|Period of material under study:||Not stated|