Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Regal Royalties: How ACUM and YouTube prove Israel's Right-Ness

Since the Napster/Metallica controversy in 2000, I have had split affinity in the debate over artists' rights.

As an artist, in general, I am protective of the intellectual property that my fellows produce. As a graffiti artist, in specific, I dislike the notion of private, protected space. Graffiti artists are a rather magnanimous, giving bunch who share their work freely, even when it might not always be wanted. Within that same ideological vein, graffiti artists also take freely and it is a culture that, at its worst, supports an anarchistic belief in theft and, at its best, a utopian, communal ideal that all goods should be distributed evenly amongst the largest possible group.

Israel too has a bit of the radical and the hippie in its own national construction. On the one hand, Israel is so vastly different then its neighbors in the Middle East with its civil rights that it seems shocking. On the other hand, Israel shares these freedoms with all her citizens, like a 1960's flower child would want things to be. Like a graffiti artist, these two ideas exist at once in Israel. And, like a graffiti artist, Israel often finds herself somewhere she is not wanted, creating art and beauty even in the face of criticism and threats of violence. The Middle East is a murky place.

There is nothing more murky then the field of technology and artists rights, licensing and fees. Production houses, record labels and the ever-growing network of sites like YouTube, Facebook and LimeWire are trying to figure out how to best share creative content in a digital way without hampering either their user's desire to share digitally as they used to hand-to-hand or the artists' rights to receive just compensation for their output. The 2007 Writers' Strike was the first of what threatens to be many negative consequences of this failure to come to terms.

A licensed drum roll please then as Israel enters with a solution. Please see article HERE. Working with ACUM, an Israeli non-profit organization representing the rights of authors, composers, musicians and other artists, YouTube has agreed to pay artists a royalty each time their music is played. This money will not come from the fans' pockets but, rather, from advertising revenue generated by YouTube. This solution satisfies both the eager public hungry for art and the starving artist. The anarchist and the hippie are one and Israel has proven that they remain the home of artists' rights.

Now, if an Israeli organization can get YouTube to resolve this conflict, surely Israel can make peace if they find a willing partner. Anyone out there?

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