darklight perspectives conference 17th november 2001

Supported by Critical Voices http://www.artscouncil.ie/

***Audio archive of conference now available

This year's Darklight Digital Festival will encompass the following: Straylight online art exhibition, selected film screenings and digital works on site and, for the first time, Darklight Digital Perspectives: a day long seminar exploring "Ownership and distribution of creative content on the Internet"

Darklight Perspectives is partnered with the Bord Scannán na hÉireann: The Irish Film Board's Digital Days series. http://www.filmboard.ie/

This year Darklight will host a conference "Darklight Perspectives" which
sets out to directly address a fundamental issue of importance to the
future development of digital creative community in Ireland and their

"Ownership and distribution of creative content on the Internet"

This conference, the first of its kind in Ireland, will bring together speakers at the top of their fields, on-line visual arts, music, film, open source/free software advocates and law. Our speakers will debate fundamental questions of ownership, control and access to content in a digital environment.


Lawrence Lessig: Stanford Law School

Ian Clarke: Developer Freenet

Joshua Davis: Designer and Flash Developer


John Perry Barlow: Writer, Lecturer and Consultant

Paul Largan: Producer Online distrabution

We will invite producers, authors, students, filmmakers, artists, designers, hackers, crackers, DJs, animators, legals, journalists, musicians, media moguls, net addicts, coders and any other interested parties to attend this one day event.

Background to Darklight Perspectives:

In Ireland, Europe's leading high-tech cluster, every technologically minded fine art graduate is now a web designer, musicians put their work on Vitaminic.com before gigging in their local and Irish filmmakers have direct access to an all-new pay-per-view audience online. The combination of broadband Internet access, digital compression and file sharing P2P technologies has opened up radical new channels for the distribution of artists work..

Our daylong seminar will examine the impact of the Internet on the distribution of artists work. In particular we will look at some of the conflicting forces at play in the world of online distribution: the needs of artist, the audience and the entertainment corporations.

We will invite producers, authors, students, filmmakers, artists, designers, hackers, crackers, DJs, animators, legals, journalists, musicians, media moguls, net addicts, coders and any other interested parties to attend this one day event

The Digital Artist's path to their audience:

The Internet brings exciting new opportunities for access to and distribution of artist's work. The main change being that the artist is no longer dependant on entertainment corporations to get their work to their audiences worldwide.

Whether your work will be seen or heard is no longer tied to how commercially viable or mainstream your work is. The artist has now the possibility of becoming an independent distributor in their own right.

Many artists have already chosen to break away from their record companies and publishing houses. They control their own websites and offer their work for download direct to their audience.

The audience benefits too. Specialty interests no longer have to be ordered. Prices no longer include a mark-up for the costs of keeping an on the ground distribution network in place or for marketing another artist on the same label. Audiences know that the artist will receive a fair percentage of the purchase price.

Protecting artists' work online: copyright and digital rights management

One of the great concerns for artists is protection of their work.

When a whole album can be downloaded from across the world in minutes and every household PC can act as decentralised server the potential for piracy is huge.

Traditionally copyright served to protect the artist's work from unlawful distribution or theft. In the early days of the Internet it was still felt that copyright was adequate to deal with theft of artists work online.

As broadband became a reality, the threat of unlawful use of artists work increased. A new method was introduced to ensure that artists work was not copied without permission. This method was known as Digital Rights Management. A digital rights management system works by encrypting the artist's work. The work will usually only be decrypted into a usable format when payment is made for the work. This is the usual system behind pay-per-view.

As encryption codes can be cracked, Digital Rights Management systems can be interfered with. To prevent this, the worldwide entertainment corporations lobbied extensively for new laws relating to copyright to be introduced in the US and in Europe. These laws made it an offence to attempt to circumvent a digital rights management system.

Copyright has always allowed for "fair use" of an artists work. You benefit from the fair use exception to copyright protection when you browse a book in a bookshop or library or when you record a film on your video recorder for viewing later. What would happen if you wanted to have fair use access to Digital Rights Managed content? As the content is encrypted, the possibility of fair use of this work no longer exists. An attempt to try to crack the system to enjoy fair use of the content gives you criminal status.

The entertainment corporations have also now called upon tech manufacturers to produce machines where it is no longer possible to create serial copies of digital work. They are creating a an environment where we work under the presumption that everyone who uses a CD burner is doing so to copy and steal an artist's work without permission - that everyone who uses a recording device will only use it do commit a criminal act. The move is to ensure that fully functioning digital recording and copying devices are kept away from the general public and the independent artist. The implications for independent artistic distribution are obvious.

The Darklight Perspectives Debate:

Copyright has always been perceived as the artist's friend. Not only does it protect the integrity of the artist's work, it is also used by the artist to reward the entertainment house middleman for marketing and distributing their work. However some argue that the existing regime offers by far the greater rewards to the entertainment corporation middleman. (In the music industry the artists only gets as little as 14% of what is earned on sales) To many artists, the Internet offers the glimpse of a more equitable economic arrangement and the opportunity to redefine the relationship with their audience. However for the large corporations that control the majority of the world's content the Internet is a serious threat to the status quo.

Taking these opposing views as a starting point Darklight Digital Perspectives will kick off a debate which will facilitate resolution of some of the most pressing questions, including:

- Have we merely preserved the distribution status quo and quashed the revolutionary potential of independent online distribution?

- Are we leaving it up to the lobbying multinational corporations to decide how we will access, distribute and share content?

-The legislative erosion of fair use of content has gone largely unnoticed in Europe. The increased protection for artists work that Digital Rights Management provides is important but is the narrowing down of Fair Use a reasonable price to pay?

- We will look at other methods of ownership, distribution and payment - opensource, free software, peer to peer networks, micropayments and tipping (the street performer's protocol)

- We will ask the question: How does this relate to and effect Film, Music, Visual Arts, Broadcasting and Writing.

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