An appealing offer that appeared over a month ago in a Vancouver newspaper, and now the box set of DVDs is available at any electronic store or by order on-line. Look closely at the date of the first film, which is getting close to the 75th year from the date of publication. According to most copyright laws, particularly the United States which was the country of the film's origin, this film would be entering the public domain on January 1st, 2012. Now that this film has been re-licenced by Warner Brothers, it will be safe from the rip and burners who would upload it onto YouTube, mash up some scene with any sort of indie music available, and most likely ruin a classic film for this and many generations to come. A sound decision for the Hollywood studio that originated the classic film.

On the other hand, this could also be seen as Andrea Ciffolilli sees it, a corporate hijacking of what should be copyleft material? In his article, A Case for Copyleft, he equates as "an extra vice to be added to the list of copyright’s undesirable effects. This is the possibility of subtracting other people’s works from the public domain and embodying them in proprietary assemblages, even when the original content could not be otherwise copyrighted." (Ciffolilli, 2004. p. 2) Basically, a filmmaker or video artist could not take a scene from this movie once it would have reached it public domain status. And what is Warner Brothers doing with the reacquired film? Practically giving them away, it seems.

Much of Ciffolilli's article looks at the appropriation of Open Source software, which should be widely used rather than controlled by organizations and especially by corporations. He focuses on an attempt made to construct a Web directory for Open Source sites, called Directory Mozilla. While great effort was put into DMOZ, other search engines like Google and Yahoo! reaped the benefit of the cataloging. With "less advertising funds to keep them afloat" (Vaughan, 2003 cited in Ciffolilli, 2004, p. 5) search engines like Modzilla struggled while Google expanded with paid-for links as well as "googlewashing" a website so that it remains top of the search list. Ciffolilli's article predates by two months the launch of Modzilla's next move, and most successful Open Source web browser Firefox.

Another interesting omission in his article is any mention of Wikipedia, except for a note on copyleft designer Richard Stallman. The on-line encyclopedia has been in use since 2001. "By late 2002, it had reached 26 language editions, 46 by the end of 2003, and 161 by the final days of 2004" (Wikipedia entry, Wikipedia) and doubtlessly one of those languages would have been Italian! Donald Tapscott and Anthony D. WIlliams write extensively about the influence Jimmy Wale's Open Source project has had on the way Internet users search for information in their book Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. In particular, their chapter titled "Peer Pioneers" (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p 65-96) On the other hand, there is only this information on Wikipedia relating to Andrea Ciffolilli:


Back to the article, Ciffolilli has much to write about the Creative Commons, where the ideals of copyleft are "smoothed with an innovative approach to licensing that makes flexibility and customization its main virtues." (Ciffolilli, 204, p. 8) Developed in 2001, the Creative Commons started out at Stanford Law School as a way to interpret US copyright law for cyberspace It supports the activism of Professor Lawrence Lessig, and "CC's main goal is to provide an easy mechanism that allows authors to customize copyright law creatively according to their notion of flexibility." (ibid, p. 8) The next challenge for Lessig and the CC is the proposed bill COICA that has the support of the entertainment industry, but will seriously curtail any file sharing not just in the United States, but anywhere in the world where something like this can be found on-line:

A Mash Up of Inception and Up, created by iwantmyTVNOW.
See the YouTube video before it vanishes from the Internet!

The combination of these two films is a poignant conclusion to the discussion raised in Ciffolilli's article. On the one hand, it takes the theme of idea theft from the box office hit Inception, and combines it with ownership issues of Carl Fredricksen house in the animated film Up. If Copyleft and the Creative Commons are vindicated it will allow for more remixing, mashing up and creativity from the digital natives. The UPception video is also a testament to the collaborative and creative approach of Pixar's films, as can be heard in this clip from the IFC News podcast.

Listen to the full discussion at IFC News - Our Pixar Podcast