Copyright or Copyleft? Freegan Kolektiva’s images published under Creative Commons license

Cultural exchange needs to be relieved from the increasingly repressive and complex copyright laws so that we can all freely work on the huge global challenges that lie ahead like resource depletion and climate change. Freegan Kolektiva has decided to publish images under Creative Commons licenses, even if this solution is rooted in the current regulatory context.

As you can see from the previous posts, the first original image created by the Freegan Kolektiva was published on the web carrying the Creative Commons icon. We have spent lately a considerable amount of time surfing the net to see what other folks are doing and we were quite surprised with how many websites are copyrighted.

It is a sensitive issue: when you spent time and your creative resources to produce something then you want to see your creation being treated in a good way. Most people also want to be recognized, get a feedback so in order to continue investing their time and energy in their work. For example, most bands give up when their popularity drops. Other artist just can’t make it without any money. Some artists also do not want to see their creation hanging out in the ‘wrong’ place of being used for a purpose they do not agree with. It is up to the creator to decide – lots of artists also choose to just share their works.

On the other hand, our culture has been deeply entangled in bureaucracy; laws have been restrictive and increasingly complex. Copyrights and patenting have been created and modified to safeguard the interests of corporations. We are talking about industries that are dominating every aspect of human work and ingenuity e.g. the film industry, food industry.  It is like a closed society, benefiting the insiders and denying the outsiders. If you cannot afford it, you are denied to gain access to a cultural work. As a logical outcome you are going to be left behind, so that you cannot compete in the market because you lack the resources and the ‘know-how’.

Talking about the most powerful communication tool of our times, internet, it was supposed to be a rather democratic and accessible tool for communication. The rise of patterns is the extreme opposite. Moreover, collaboration, cross-pollination of ideas, wide access to cultural resources and ‘know-how’ etc. are fundamental processes that could advance human innovation. Many perceive innovation and international cooperation between people as a fundamental instrument, if humanity is ever going to address and surpass the gigantic challenges of natural resource depletion, ecological collapse, climate change, poverty & hunger which are all escalating at the same time.We need to share knowledge, adapt to our local settings, re-create and pass it on to others to do their part. Culture in that way may become more vibrant, more tolerant to difference and more open to change. Our objectives in Freegan Kolektiva include the dissemination of self-determined, sustainable lifestyles free of exploitation. We aspire to become a hub of cultural exchange and an agent of change in our local communities. Do we really need a license to do all this? No, but we want to be vocal about it and let others know from the first moment that our work can be sent forward, copied and re-arranged. Ideally, there would be no need for any kind of laws to govern these processes but the reality is that we live in a world full of regulations, copyrights and patents.

A positive attribute of such a license is that everyone has access to a cultural work; you do not need permission from the creator. That already puts cultural transmission on a more equal basis. We chose a type of Creative Commons license that prohibits the use of the work for commercial purposes and requires that reproduction or remix of the work must be shared under the same terms (i.e. a Creative Commons or equal type of license). This delimits freedom but avoids appropriation and profit-making.  The type of license we are currently using is not an end in itself. We might choose another way to publish and distribute our work in the future, but we feel comfortable with it at the moment. We acknowledge that a revision or reform (or even abolition) of the regulatory system can only be achieved by bold action which may include both political struggle and the advancement of positive alternatives.

The case for us of Creative Commons is similar to other alternatives that exist today and are included in the system. Creative Commons just emphasizes a softer copyright pattern; it makes it easier for people to share cultural resources – it just takes a couple of clicks. It operates in the same judiciary system; it applies the exact same laws but gives you the choice to be open for sharing.

Copyleft license logo

You can ask again: Is it good to buy a Fair Trade product? Or an organic product from the supermarket? I always have mixed feelings because I know that to make trade really fair you need a total re-structuring of the economic frameworks. Nevertheless, I do believe that it is better than a conventional product and I see it as a momentary ‘partial’ solution and a vehicle for change. That does not mean that I cannot pursue fundamental social improvement by other means at the same time. That poses a deeper question about how we imagine social change: an abrupt shift or a gradual transition (Or a combination of both?). Shall we try to utilize and (to a rather limited extend) modify them or shall we fundamentally oppose to them. I hope there is a constructive space for people with different views but seeking change to collaborate. In FK we express the need to go beyond dichotomies and static debates. I think that copyleft licenses are making this world a bit better and could provide us a ‘vehicle’ to greater change as long as we do not stagnate in any ‘feel good’ state.

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