Thursday, October 28, 2004

The right to be wrong

Himalayan parakeet
Ideas are like birds. I had a pet Himalayan parakeet(Roseringed Parakeet (Psittacula Krameri)) while growing up. He was very intelligent. He could speak quite a few words, fortunately none blue. When I went to the zoo and saw other birds like him, I felt pangs of guilt at caging him and getting personal profit from his plight. I could have freed him, but rationalized that he was incapable of surviving on his own.

Ideas somehow take on a life of their own, especially after they are freed from the shackles we apply to them. In the post-modern world, where we strive to free peoples of the world for the sake of an idea called freedom, how then do we justify the ownership of phrases, ideas and thoughts?

Some call it sweat equity, others say it is to recompense the original creator. Yet luminaries like Richard Stallman,whom I interviewed in 2000, Cory Doctorow, Michael Moore, and lots more praise the power of the idea to generate new ideas when shared, to cause a flowering of culture & economic growth.
girl eating mango
From photograph by Yuri Lefrantz

There used to be a blog called 'A Day In The Life' - all it had was a daily-changing photograph of quotidian life in Singapore, or elsewhere. I recently revisited it from my bookmark to see a picture I liked. When I refreshed the page, I saw a takedown notice from the copyright holders of the phrase 'A Day In The Life' - brrr....I'll never treat the casual phrase lightly again.
This site, formerly known as A Day in the is currently on hold. I received a cease and desist letter from Harper Collins Publishing Co. who own the federally licensed trademark "A Day in the Life..." So, I am not allowed to continue to bring you this site from this particular url or under the name A Day in the Life. However, I am in the process of working with a couple of other people to get the site back up-and-running. The new site, which will be called Scene From My Life will be set up shortly.

There are other people, like Hilary Rosen, ex-head of the RIAA who are espousing the Creative Commons License as a means of returning ideas to the common weal, allowing them to serve as the memes they are, and still allowing the creator of the idea to receive recompense.(Slashdot here)
Licenses from Creative Commons allow musicians to dictate how their music will be used - even if they sign with a record label (as long as the CC terms are part of the contract). Some artists want their music distributed as widely as possible, with no payment or control requirements; for them, an unlimited CC license is a way to declare these intentions.

A coffee shop near where I work in Milwaukee has evolved an 'appropriation-friendly' model - there is a sizable folder of CDs kept around. If the visitor likes a CD, he/she can take it, and possibly return it, and others. No rules, no referees. Cory Doctorow posts here that an appropriation-friendly library has opened in 'Frisco guided by Rick Prelinger, media archaeologist, among others
The Prelinger Library is an appropriation-friendly, browsable collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals, print ephemera and government documents
Our shelving strategy also diverges from that of other libraries in our approach to materials integration. On our shelves, maps, government documents, books, periodicals, and ephemera are all shelved together within commonly-held subject headings. This promotes an integral approach to research and browsing, and opens wide the possibility of discovery. It is one way we have put into practice our goal of being a browsing-based library rather than a query-based library. In a query-based library, when you know you are looking for a map you go to the map section. In our library, you may be drawn toward a subject without knowing that a map of its related area would be relevant to your inquiry, until you arrive at the shelf and learn so for yourself.

Prelinger library shelving
Image @ Prelinger library

My book collection was considered appropriation-friendly, by my friends. I guess they were ahead of the times.

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader