Thursday, March 15, 2007

The French Democracy

Very cool article in this week's Escapist by Allen Varney about last year's machinima hit The French Democracy, and the particular copyright issues raised by machinima as an emerging art form. He writes,
If you shoot a high-def film with a Canon camera, Canon doesn't own your movie. If you publish a book or magazine that uses fonts owned by Microsoft and images corrected in Adobe Photoshop, neither Microsoft nor Adobe owns your publication, because their licenses specifically grant you ownership. But if you make a machinima film using The Movies, Activision (the publisher) controls it. Activision controls everything.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in digital IP issues and/or user-generated content. It offers a great summary of the particular legal/ethical issues associated with machinima, concentrating on Activison's The Movies as a sort of case study. My law professor (and author of Video Game Law) Jon Festinger pointed out this game as a potential locus of future (digital) IP debates, and Varney seems to agree that a machinima-centred IP conflict may yet come to pass, although perhaps not for some time:
Copyright problems aside, it's hard to envision a machinima movement with political clout. What is the usual fate of a political work produced outside the existing power structure? Such works aren't inherently, inevitably marginalized, but history shows that's the way to bet. "The French Democracy" is to machinima as, say, Democracy Now is to American television. They are both commentators in the wilderness, exiled by systemic pressures that have no technical fix.

You can read the full article here.

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