Wednesday, 2 March 2011

To Copy or Not to Copy

Is it wrong to copy? The video below asserts that copying is not wrong because it differs from stealing. With stealing I'm taking something away. With copying I'm multiplying something.

I've complained about the problem of plagiarism amongst my students before on this blog and am obviously against plagiarism. However, as an artist I'm fully aware of the fact that art is cumulative -- building on the ideas of what came before; that creativity is about using some already existing thing and presenting it in a new or novel way. The video below illustrates this wonderfully:

Artworks do not have lists of references and technically speaking often commit "plagiarism." Such "copying" in artwork is not considered plagiarism, but instead a type of iconic referencing and is sometimes even considered a compliment towards the original artist.

Probably the person that have considered this dilemma the most thoroughly is Professor Lawrence Lessig, author of Free Culture. It is an excellent book, well worth reading, and best of all, it is free and legal to copy it from the Internet. You can also listen to it as an audio book.

I teach a class on Shakespeare Film. Imagine my surprise when some of the films I want to show my students are not available in Korea on DVD. One would think it quite easy -- I just order it online from a country where it is available. It sounds great in theory, until you realise that the only DVDs you can get of this particular film is not in a DVD region that's compatible with local DVD-players. The solution? Download the film (illegally) from the Internet, convert it into a compatible format, and then show it.

Or . . . don't show the film and so deprive my students of one of the best Shakespeare films ever made.

What would you do?


Mary-Jane said...

I wouldn't think twice about downloading in such a case. After all, it is in the film's and artists' best interest for their work to be known as widely as possible :-)

Skryfblok said...

Maybe I can get away with the excuse that it is 'educational' . . .