Each issue of JIPLP is the result of a great deal of team effort. Authors, editors, setters and printers strive to produce each month's journal on time, with the right number of pages and with well-presented contents, in some cases simultaneously working on materials for future issues. Here the jiplp weblog presents a short piece by a highly-valued member of the production team, Siobhán Fogarty. Siobhán (the name is Irish and it's female, corresponding to "Joan" in English) is JIPLP's Production Editor, in which role she has come to learn a great deal about IP. She writes:
"As a production editor, I flick over hundreds of articles on various niche academic interests, but rarely have the luxury of being able to set aside some time to read them. IP law was never something I knew much about prior to working for Oxford Journals, the DRM system being as much as I had come across at that point. This appeared to me illogical, unfair, outdated and based solely on greed of the music and techonological industries, without the rights of the artists or listeners really taken into consideration. I am a huge fan of open-source software and Creative Commons licences but, working in publishing, know how important it is for the creator of an original work to be able to benefit financially. I do not feel that it is fair to expect our artists to adhere to the 'starving-in-a-garret' stereotype; I believe strongly that, if we value art and cultural pursuits for their own sakes, we should allow people to make their living from it, whilst maintaining the public's right to access culture. This right is taken seriously in Britain, as shown by the superb system of free galleries and museums. One of the reasons I was so attracted to working for OUP is the company's dedication to the dissemination of knowledge, which extends to voluntarily reducing profit in order to remain accessible to institutions in developing countries.
Beginning my employment at OUP with these slightly confused ideas of IP law, working on JIPLP has been a genuinely pleasurable education. Through the nuts-and-bolts method of publishing papers, checking citation styles, correcting style errors and writing emails to untold numbers of lawyers, I have come across nuggets of pure philosophy. Tomasz Rychlicki's article about the ownership of graffitti art on trains travelling across EU borders was a real eye-opener (JIPLP Volume 3 issue 6). It was facinating to see a case study which had no real financial or legal interests involved (aside from the question of whether any of the art was legal at all), and therefore stemmed entirely from an exploration of the theoretical issues surrounding creative ownership and, intriguingly, how this could change day-by-day according to different laws, as the train moves through different countries.
Julian Gyngell's article on 'Down Under' (now available on Advance Access), a song previously best known for being a novelty single by a man who went on to write the hauntingly beautiful 'serious' work Transcendental Highways (although I for one take my novelty singles very seriously) is, to me, equally thought-provoking. It raises questions such as when homage becomes theft, whether a riff is vital to a song's integrity and character, and when a eucalyptus becomes a gum tree (some trees from the eucalyptus family are called gum trees, whereas others are not - the presence of a eucalyptus tree in the video for 'Down Under' was used as evidence of infringement, but it was not mentioned whether this was in fact a gum tree, which is the more specifically named resting-place of the kookaburra in the original composition). These are certainly not easy questions to ascertain in a post-modern culture where whole genres have risen around the mash-up, and sampling is taken for granted as a sign of respect or affectionate mockery. To use a riff from a folk song in order to impart something into a larger composition is not a new practice, but clearly one that has implications for IP law, and which could cause problems when used in cross-cultural 'fusion' art.
This is why I find IP law to be so fascinating: higher notions of fairness and justice are played out in individual cases, and, whilst I cannot pretend to have a sustained interest in some of more industrial areas of IP law, as a lay person reading the journal I have had my eyes opened to the ways in which it affects our whole culture, high-brow and low, popular and esoteric. Whilst my own personal interest lies with notions of creative ownership in culture, and a fascination with the complications of Web 2.0, and what this could potentially mean for the sharing of knowledge and ultimately, the shaping of our society, I recognise that the issues behind trade marks, copyright, slogans, logos and designs have implications far beyond 'culture for culture's sake', and hope to continue to learn from and enjoy the journal as long as I can".
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