For the general public, any mention of authors' rights triggers a caricatural response: an image of pirates and copyright-owners playing cat and mouse. The media coverage of the Napster case is a striking example of this particular state of mind. Viewed either as a symbol of free net distribution or else dismissed as the latest piracy tool, this software has been turned into an icon and the significant questions that it raises have been reduced to a tussle between the opposing interests of old-fashioned producers and new distributors. Who'll win - the Majors or the file-swappers? However, the issue of author's rights cannot be reduced to this simplistic argument. Various groups and networks, embracing artists, curators, programmers, administrators, legislators and producers, feel the need to rethink the copyright laws taking into account the three principal interest-groups: the author, the producer/distributor, and the public domain. As new licenses appear, like the GPL or recently the Licence Art Libre, manifestos are published, and new logos (”no copyright”, copyleft”...) sprinkle CD covers and webpages, a recurring idea emerges: readjustment. The idea of readjustment is connected to a desire to rehabilitate the Public Domain in a world increasingly privatized, in which every form of sharing is seen as a market failure, or rather, in which every kind of exchange is viewed as potential "business". This approach has led the contenders to search for legal ways to protect, under European Law, the existence of “exceptions” such as the right of quotation, parody, copy for private use and to entrench these exceptions as fundamental principles of Copyright Law. In the same spirit, programmers and artists are writing licenses that attempt to compensate for the lack of protection afforded open source code and public participatory projects. All these initiatives share an ethical concern for the existence of a cultural common ground and a freer access to information culture.
What kind of impact will these licenses have? What is the future of this readjustment? Is the idea of readjustment radical enough to counter the power of the big mergers, the well-established monopolies of distributors and producers? And, in view of the harm done to the developing world by the enforcement of copyright law, should we not consider its total abolition?
The association Constant invites you to participate in a week of lectures, discussions and alternative scenarios regarding the subject of Copyright. Each evening a particular domain will be on the agenda: music and sound, visual arts, on-line museums... Our guests will share their experience and expertise, engaging the public in the discussion and inviting the audience, at the end of each session, to draw up scenarios for the future of the culture of the copy. A follow-up group will keep track of the variables discussed and, on the last day, will summarise the discussions in a concluding, debate. Lectures and talks will be netcast on Constant and Cafe9’s websites and broadcast on Radiolab .The week's work will be summed up by cultural historian Hillel Schwartz in a performance:" What will we do for an encore?"