make-believe.org

Grey areas of the web

If there's a problem with the "turning websites grey for a day" idea, it's that in the blogosphere... it's kinda indiscernible. Take a look at the current crop of well designed weblogs, and tell me if you can't see a few running themes going on there. Nary a primary colour in sight. Of the blogs I visit regularly, I don't know if Gothamist, hivelogic, Lessig, ftrain, or Powazek are making a statement about fairer copyright rules or not. (Well, okay, I know Lessig is. He always is, bless him.)

I do know that Boing Boing is making just such a statement, because it's hurting my eyes. And it claims that Kottke is likewise outfitted, but I can't seem to bring up his site right now, so I don't know.

Among the less well-trampled blogs, mathcaddy is looking sleek in its greyscale get-up. Culture kitchen has cooked up an uncharacteristically muted, but suitably demonstrative, main course. Discarnate.org is as monochrome as it is pretty as it is wholly expired. And angiemckaig.com is my favourite chameleon so far.

Don't mistake this demonstration for a call to radically abrogate copyrights; that's not what it's about. It's a call for a rational approach to intellectual property. We can't work in isolation, we are always inspired by others; the notion of progress itself is recognition of this basic truism. The Grey Album is a work of art in its own right; what it borrows from the Beatles it takes in small doses, refashions to a different end, and provides attribution. It should be allowed to be heard.

Copyright laws in their present form can't logically persist in the newly digitised and networked world. No matter how many poor kids the RIAA and MPAA drag through the courts, they still fight an unwinnable war. They need to find new and amicable solutions, not attempt to barricade crumbling walls.

And they will, eventually, after enough blood is let. But that shouldn't make one complacent. Advocate practical, workable copyright solutions. If you are at all artistically inclined, start by visiting the Creative Commons.

Other notes on Grey Tuesday:

  • If you are interested in quasi-legal, "grey area" art, specifically street art, stencilling, stickering and graff, check out the The Wooster Collective. It'll drop your jaw one mousewheel scroll at a time.
  • If you dig hip-hop and are presently abiding in Melbourne, I'll just assume you're coming to The Corner this Friday for the TZU album launch. I've been waiting for their debut album a good two years. So I'll see you there. (I'm the guy who looks oddly like Abe Lincoln with a crew cut.)

Joseph | 24 Feb 2004

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