Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hong Kong Phooey

In the last few days, scout leaders in Hong Kong have qualified as Scout "Respect for Intellectual Property Rights" Instructors, according to he Information Services Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. A nice title, but what does it mean? Its not easy to find out, but it appears to be about how the best way to use something, is to pay fees to someone to rent it.

To this end, the special administration has organised a fun fair, titled the “Respect for Intellectual Property Rights Fun Fair” (catchy, eh). Singing performances were held at this fair, and local creative people shared creativity experiences. There was even a competition, where 10 scout teams fight it out for "Best Intellectual Property Game Booth Design. My word, I've been to seminar's less topic-focused than this.

The highlight has to be the statement by the Intellectual Property Department of Hong Kong's Director, Mr. Stephen Selby.
Ideas are unique, and creative work takes tremendous time and effort. Creativity will disappear if we continue to plagiarise and "steal" the creative works of others. The public must stop any illegal uploading or downloading of music, movies or other copyright works from the Internet," Mr Selby said.

Ideas maybe be unique, although ideas are also cheap. I've had 30 ideas since I started this paragraph. Some of them are VERY unique, but I doubt any will come to anything. Well respected author Neil Gaimen wrote a childrens book in an afternoon, and Andy Kim says “ I also wrote I Forgot To Mention with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. Writing with Ed was a magical moment. We wrote it in an afternoon and as with most things that are meant to be, it went really smoothly." Time is a substitute, in many cases, for creativity.

You also have to love the line about 'stealing the creative works of others' – thing is, if you ask almost any musician about that, they'll point to the record labels as the thieves. Courtney Love's speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference, given in New York on May 16 2000 is a real eye-opener if you've had no experience with the music business (transcript) It may be almost 6 years old, but nothing has changed. Indeed, if anything, things have gotten worse.

If I take a song, say, ooh, “give peace a chance” (got to take a local boy's song, even though I can't stand this song), how exactly is any form of plagiarism, or even stealing of this song going to affect creativity? Is it like the fabled butterfly's wings, where my copying a single here, stops a creativiton from striking John Smith's brain in Podunk, Idaho. Maybe it'll stop the artist from being creative – oops, Mark Chapman beat me to that 25 years ago. The only one it could possibly hurt would be EMI, and that's hardly affecting creativity.

Indeed, stifling creativity has been the name of the game for years. Ask Angie Aparo how hard it was to get his songs distributed. Go to any technological news site and see the wrangling between companies over this patent, that trademark, so-and-so's copyright.

Is the answer training scout masters to be copyright enforcers in Hong Kong? Phooey!

Ben Jones

External link
Hong Kong government press release

1 comment: