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Copyright and Fair Use: Tightrope Walk or Tug-of-War?: Home

Tug of War

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, reproduction number LC-USF34-039637-D DLC

Dear President Obama and Vice President Biden,

We, the undersigned, are just a few of the more than 11 million artists living, working, and creating across the United States. Our work brings significant cultural and economic value to our society - and contributes $1.52 trillion to the nation's GDP. Yet that value is being disregarded as our rights and incentives to create are increasingly under threat.

Hear us as we speak with one voice about the importance of creators' rights...

We contribute in some way to every single industry in the country. Many of us are self-employed. All of us work hard and pay taxes.

Yet, we are under assault. Our rights to control the distribution, use, and reproduction of our works in our vibrant digital age are dismissed by many who do not understand the value we bring to society. They tell us to work harder, create better, and give our works away. Some think that they should control our works and that they should be able to appropriate, perform, and copy them how they please, without our consent, benefit, or participation...

Read the rest of the letter and see more information from the Copyright Alliance website.

Two Sides

Listen to comments by documentary filmmaker
Chris Hegedus
 Videos online,
who has experienced
both sides of the debate first-hand.

The Tug of War

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, reproduction number LC-USF34-039612-D DLC

Creators here and everywhere are always and at all times building upon the creativity that went before and that surrounds them now. That building is always and everywhere at least partially done without permission and without compensating the original creator. No society, free or controlled, has ever demanded that every use be paid for or that permission for Walt Disney creativity must always be sought. Instead, every society has left a certain bit of its culture free for the taking—free societies more fully than unfree, perhaps, but all societies to some degree.

The hard question is therefore not /whether/ a culture is free. All cultures are free to some degree. The hard question instead is “/How/ free is this culture?” How much, and how broadly, is the culture free for others to take and build upon? Is that freedom limited to party members? To members of the royal family? To the top ten corporations on the New York Stock Exchange? Or is that freedom spread broadly? To artists generally, whether affiliated with the Met or not? To musicians generally, whether white or not? To filmmakers generally, whether affiliated with a studio or not?

Free cultures are cultures that leave a great deal open for others to build upon; unfree, or permission, cultures leave much less. Ours was a free culture. It is becoming much less so.

From Free Culture, by Lawrence Lessig, one of the founders of the Creative Commons