1Rip, mix, share, and sue. Has ‘copy’ become a dirty word? The invitation to artists, activists, consumers and critics to engage in the debate surrounding the creative processes of ‘copy’ has been insightful, if not inciting sampling/reproduction/reflection itself: It clearly questions whether ‘copy’ deserves the negative connotations that it currently summonses. It has confronted the divide between the original and its replica, and questioned notions of authenticity and the essence of identity. It has found that ‘open source’ is an opportunity to capitalise on creativity, and that reuse is resplendently productive. Cultural expression and social exchange are seen to rest upon the acts of copying which are brought to our attention in this edition.

2As this issue illustrates, the word ‘copy’ has numerous interpretations, applications, and angles, yet an overriding wealth of debate currently outweighs all others; and that surrounds the tumultuous issue of ‘protecting’ copyright in the digital age. Since its conception in the 17th century, copyright law has faced an increasing challenge in achieving its original aims; namely, to strike a balance between creators’ and consumers’ rights in allowing concurrent attribution and access to works. Recent dramatic technological advancements affecting reproduction and distribution of copies, particularly pertaining to the Internet, have fundamentally changed and challenged the content environment.

3When copyright laws were first conceived, copying and distributing creative works was difficult. Now these activities are virtually free, and practically pervasive; in the digital age, the difficulty lies in their control. Yet because the primarily Western copyright regime relies on providing rights holders with the ability to control their works, copyright industries are working on strategies to garner greater control. Heading this list of strategies are technological content protection mechanisms, consumer education, and lawsuits against individual copyright infringers. Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are being exploited and sabotaged simultaneously by entities within the Creative Industries, in an attempt to learn from and eliminate the free ‘competition’.

4Perceiving the mismatch of legal sanction and access to enabling technologies, critics revile the increasing restriction on consumers and creativity. The music industry, in particular, is experimenting with new business models to confine consumers’ rights to enjoy a growing bank of online music. Technical protection mechanisms, within the ambit of Digital Rights Management (DRM), are increasingly applied to enforce these licensing restrictions, providing ‘speed bumps’ for access to content (Digital Connections Council of the Committee for Economic Development 50). Given that these mechanisms can only temporarily allow a limited level of control over access to and usage of content, however, both IP and contract law are essential to the prevention and deterrence of infringement. While production and distribution corporations agitate about online ‘piracy’, an increasing population of consumers are unsympathetic, knowing that very little of the music industry revenue ends up in the pockets of artists, and knowing very little of the complex law surrounding copyright. Over the past few hundred years the content distribution business has become particularly wealthy, and it is primarily this link of the content chain from creator to consumer that is tending towards redundancy in the digital networked world: those who once resided in the middle of the content chain will no longer be required.

5When individuals and collectives create something they are proud of, they want the world to experience and talk about it, if not ‘rip, mix, mash, and share’ it. The need to create and communicate has always been part of human makeup. Infants learn rapidly during their first few years primarily by observing and emulating the behaviour of adults. But as children progress, and begin creating what they perceive to be their unique contribution, they naturally want to claim and display it as their own; hence the importance of attribution and moral rights to this debate. Clearly, society benefits in many ways from this drive to create, innovate, communicate, learn and share contributions. One need only cite Sir Isaac Newton, who is attributed as having said, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Academics and scientists worldwide have long collaborated by sharing and building on one another’s work, a fact acknowledged by the Science Commons initiative (http://www.sciencecommons.org/) to provide open access to academic research and development. Such has been inspired by the vision of Lawrence Lessig, as espoused in The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World.

6Appropriation of bits and pieces (‘samples’) of another’s work, along with appropriate attribution, has always been acceptable until recently. This legal tension is explored by authors Frederick Wasser, in his article ‘When Did They Copyright the World Without Us Noticing?’, and Francis Raven, in ‘Copyright and Public Goods: An Argument for Thin Copyright Protection’. Wasser explores the recent agitation against the legislated copyright extension in the United States to 95 years from publication (or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter) from an original 14, accompanied by the changing logic of copyright, which has further upset the balance between protection and fair use, between consumer and creator, and ultimately invests power in the intermediary. Raven argues for ‘thin’ copyright protection, having the intention to protect the incentive for producers to create while also defending the public’s right to a rich intellectual realm in the public domain.

7Current conflict surrounding music sampling illustrates that our evolution towards a regime of restrictive licensing of digital works, largely driven by copyright owners and content distributors, has made the use of bits and pieces of existing music difficult, if not impossible. In this issue’s feature article ‘Good Copy/Bad Copy’, Steve Collins examines the value of ‘copy’ where musical creativity and copyright law intersect. The recontextualisation and reshaping of music with regard to cover versions and sampling brings into relief the disparity in current legal and licensing provisions. When creativity is stifled by copyright, the original intention of the law is lost. Collins argues that creators are now subject to the control of an oppressive monopoly, which clearly should be addressed if innovative cultural expression is to thrive.

8The issue’s second article, ‘The Affect of Selection in Digital Sound Art’ by author and sound artist Owen Chapman, aka ‘Opositive’, explores the interplay and influence between the ‘raw and the remixed’, where subjective control over sound production is questioned. Transformation of sound hovers between an organic and intentional process, and creates affective influence: we are ultimately entreated to listen and learn, as sampling selection goes gestalt.

9Moving from the aural domain to the written, the significance of textual reuse and self-referentiality is introduced by Kirsten Seale in her academic exploration of reuse in the works of Iain Sinclair. Sinclair, in Dining on Stones (or, the Middle Ground), is seen to have subverted the postmodernist obscuration/denial of authorial control through the reintroduction of an assured self-sampling technique. Also in contemplating the written creative process, after significant exposure to the ever-more-evident proclivities of students to cut and paste from Websites, Dr. Gauti Sigthorsson asserts that plagiarism is merely symptomatic of the dominant sampling culture. Rather than looming as a crisis, Sigthorsson sees this increasing appropriation as a ‘teachable moment’, illustrating the delights of the open source process.

10Issues of identity and authenticity are explored in ‘Digital Doppelgängers’ by Lisa Bode, and ‘Slipping and Sliding: blind optimism, greed and the effect of fakes on our cultural understanding’ by art fraud and forensic expert Robyn Sloggett. In introducing the doppelgänger of Indo-European folklore and literature as the protagonist’s sinister double, Bode goes on to explore the digital manifestation: the image which challenges the integrity of the actor and his/her reflection, where original identity may be beyond the actor’s control. In copy’s final article ‘Slipping and Sliding’ by Sloggett, the determination of artistic authenticity is explored. Identity is seen to be predicated on authenticity: but does this necessarily hold?

11In reflecting on the notions of ‘copy’ explored in this issue, it is clear that civilisation has progressed by building on past successes and failures. A better, richer future can be possible if we continue to do exactly this. Instead, rights holders are striving to maintain control, using clumsy methods that effectively alter traditional user rights (or perceived rights) and practices.

12Imagine instead if all creative content were virtually free and easily accessible to all; where it would not longer be an infringement to make and share copies for non-commercial reasons. Is it possible to engineer an alternative incentive (to copyright) for creativity to flourish? This is, after all, the underlying goal behind copyright law. Copyright law provides a creator with a temporary monopoly over the sale and distribution of their work. Infringing copyright law is consequently depriving creators of this mechanism to make money, obtain notoriety and thus their very motivation to create. This goal to provide creative incentive is fundamentally important for society, intellectually and culturally, but alternative means to achieve it are worthy of exploration. A familiar alternative option to help generate creativity is to apply a special tax (levy) on all goods and services that enable viewing, listening, reading, publishing, copying, and downloading of digital content. The revenue pool this generates is then available for distribution amongst content creators, thereby creating a financial incentive. In over 40 countries, primarily European, partial variations of such a levy system are currently used to compensate copyright owners whilst allowing consumers a certain degree of free private copying. Professor William Fisher, Hale and Dorr Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard University, and Director of the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, proposes as much in his book outlining a government-administered compensation scheme, encompassing free online access to music and movies: Promises to Keep: Technology, Law and the Future of Entertainment.

13As we are left to contemplate copyrights and ‘copywrongs’ (Vaidhyanathan), we may reflect that the ‘promotion of the progress of science and the useful arts’, as per Harper v. Row (471 U.S.), rests with the (some say draconian) directions determined by legislation. Measures contained in instruments such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), continue to diminish, if not desecrate, the public domain. Moreover, as the full impact of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States looms for the Australian audience, in the adoption of the extension of the copyright term to the criminalisation of IP infringement, we realise that the establishment of economically viable and legal alternatives to the adopted regime is paramount. (Moore) We are also left to lament the recent decision in MGM vs. Grokster, where the US Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against the file-sharing service providers Grokster and Streamcast Networks (developers of Morpheus), serving as an illustration of ongoing uncertainty surrounding P2P networks and technologies, and lack of certainty of any court decisions regarding such matters. In the future, as we log into Longhorn (http://msdn.microsoft.com/longhorn/), we will wonder where our right to enjoy began to disappear. Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (http://www.eff.org/) cry to ‘Defend Freedom in the Digital World’ gains increasing resonance.

14In presenting ‘copy’ to you, we invite you cut, paste, innovate, create, and be entertained, to share, and share alike, while you still can.