On Thursday, the Together Center featured a series of free panel discussions open to the public. Find a recap of each panel below.
Copyrights and Copywrongs
Moderator: Andrew Sellars, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University; Speakers: Chris Bavitz, Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Eve Brown, Suffolk University Law School International Property Clinic; and Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University Law School
The first panel of the day explored the ins & outs of copyright law, especially as related to music, aiming to explain the basics and clarify common points of confusion. Andrew Sellars explained that copyright was written into the Constitution to promote the progress of science and art. Congress has since developed a framework to regulate copyright law, which has recently become more and more complicated with the rise of digital technologies. The intention of copyright is to act as an incentive for people to get out and create things, not to discourage people from doing so.
When recreating or editing a copyrighted work, the key to avoiding a copyright violation is transformativeness, or how much the original piece has been changed to make it into something new. Responding to an audience question regarding copyright and DJ mixes made available online for free, the panel explained that, technically, the DJ would be violating the copyright of each individual song included. However, there has been shockingly little case law so far on this topic to determine the point at which it becomes transformative enough and therefore eligible for fair use.
“[Your music] is an extension of who you are. Your songs are your children. You want respect for your words as an extension of yourself.” –Andrew Sellars
“Copyright law protects your desire to keep your work as intended.” –Jessica Silbey
“Reputation is one of your biggest assets as an artist … You want to control where your music is used and what you do or don’t want to fight for.” –Eve Brown
“The most [financially] successful musicians right now are really aware of the options available in the digital age. Being creative about your model and using the digital resources available is what’s making artists successful.” –Eve Brown
Jessica Silbey explained that you should not let copyright violation fears restrict you as an artist. Although there is a significant liability that comes along with copyright violation because the money damages are huge, she says that “we take risks all the time in our lives without really thinking about the risks. But now we’re suddenly thinking a lot about copyright. We should continue to [take these risks] because [in reality] the risk is actually very low.”
“Don’t let copyright concerns make you quiet or discourage you. There are many resources in Boston to take advantage of to ask questions.” –Eve Brown
The second panel of the day explored grassroots, amateur methods of media production, circulation, and remediation around the globe. Panelist Chris Kirkley explained his work with Sahel Sounds, where he collected music from Saharan Africa that was being distributed and circulated exclusively on cellphones. Matt Shadetek of Dutty Artz discussed his track “Brooklyn Anthem,” which was repurposed by Jamaican teens in Brooklyn as “The Craziest Riddim” and featured in Harlem Shake style homemade dance videos. Finally, Toy Selectah (who also performed at Pico Picante later that evening) described his work with 3Ball MTY, a group of young artists from Monterrey, Mexico. Much like other underground Mexican musicians, 3Ball MTY gathered inspiration from the internet and produced tracks in a very raw manner at home, distributing them freely online and playing them out at after school gatherings.
“You never know when you release a work of art into the world what people are going to do with it, what it’s going to mean to people … The lesson for me was remaining open to other people interpreting your music.” –Matt Shadetek
“People interacting with and embracing something that [other people have] created, making it their own, and putting it back again.” –Toy Selectah
“Sounds that are explicitly digital, raw, unrefined – it’s the nature of those sounds that give it energy and feeling.” –Matt Shadetek
“One of the rules of small, local scenes is it generates uniqueness … as the internet becomes more pervasive, small, local things don’t get time to marinate as people look to the global market.” –Matt Shadetek
“Once you hit upload, the things we make take on a life of their own based on what they mean to people.” –Wayne Marshall
@CentralSquared: Where Do We Go From Here?
Moderator: Joe Grafton, Together Festival and the American Independent Business Alliance; Speakers: Nina Berg, Central Squared; Colin Brauns, Crash Pad Boston; Jesse Kanson-Benanav, A Better Cambridge; Matthew Yalouris, Cambridge Community Development Department
The final panel of the day brought together a group of local community developers to explore the future of music, art, and technology in Central Square. Panelists discussed current plans to make Central Square a more vibrant community, how they envision Central Square changing for the better in the future, and identifying and overcoming roadblocks to achieving these development goals. The panelists explained that one of the biggest challenges to bringing more music, art, and technology to Central Square is engaging young people in the decision making process in City Council. Because Council meetings are long and in the middle of the day, the people who attend are usually higher in income, retired, and over a certain age – meaning this is the demographic that sets the agenda for development in Cambridge. Technology can play a major role in bridging the gap, inspiring young people to get involved and giving access to people who may not have the luxury of time to make it to the City Council meetings.
In terms of technology, the key lies in “distilling information so it takes less time to digest … building in feedback loops … and incentivizing action.” –Colin Brauns
“So much of Cambridge has come inaccessible to a college grad with an idea … they can’t afford it … it isn’t an accessible space for entrepreneurs.” –Matthew Yalouris
“Gentrification in Cambridge is an acute issue … appropriate density and centralizing development around transportation hubs can help the problems that gentrification creates.” –Jesse Kanson-Benenav