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Reconciling Copyright with Cumulative Creativity

The Third Paradigm

Giancarlo Frosio

Reconciling Copyright with Cumulative Creativity: The Third Paradigm examines the long history of creativity, from cave art to digital remix, in order to demonstrate a consistent disparity between the traditional cumulative mechanics of creativity and modern copyright policies. Giancarlo Frosio calls for the return of creativity to an inclusive process, so that the first (pre-modern imitative and collaborative model) and second (post-Romantic copyright model) creative paradigms can be reconciled into an emerging third paradigm which would be seen as a networked peer and user-based collaborative model.
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Giancarlo Frosio


In the song ‘Caught, Can I Get a Witness?’, Carlton Douglas Ridenhour – Public Enemy’s front man, better known by his stage name Chuck D – bragged ‘[c]aught, now in court ‘cause I stole a beat / This is a sampling sport / Mail from the courts and jail / Claims I stole the beats that I rail … I found this mineral that I call a beat / I paid zero’. These lines were written shortly after the judicial turmoil that took down digital sampling. Chuck D’s witness may be of use for an entire generation of digital remixers, vidders, machinima creators, fangame developers, fanfiction writers, and users generating content. In this book, I marshal evidence to demonstrate that digging for ‘minerals’, appropriating them and reusing them to produce follow-on creativity is exactly what creativity is all about. From the oral-formulaic tradition to digital remix, the making of creativity and culture has been thriving through appropriation, imitation and borrowing.

There is a revisionist twist to this book’s historical perspective on the nature, mechanics and economics of creativity. Here, we will look at the past to understand the future. The findings yielded by historical research can be applied to digital creativity, user-generated content and remix culture. Investigating the tension between the communal and the individual nature of creativity draws attention to the cumulative nature of creativity, which seems to find little recognition in modern copyright policies. Within the premodern mechanics and economics of creativity lies...

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