Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Summer 2006: Where Did the Time Go?

A quick, rambling post about the last two months: July and August were crazy months this year, kicking off with the too-brief wedding of a reprobate friend of mine. Too brief not because I'm a fan of lengthly weddings, but because I only get to see him every few years or so. Still, I expect to turn up on his doorstep in sunny California utterly without warning one of these days, demanding a place to sleep, a five-course meal and strong drink, not necessarily in that order. Just for old times' sake.

The rest of the month was a blur—the tenth-anniversary Fantasia film festival happened over three weeks, with its own particular brand of unreality. The movies were, ahem, fantastic, and I got to spend some time with Jim Woodring, Sylvie Bringas and Robert Morgan, which was a pleasure. Interviews, podcasts and the like to appear on the fps website soon.

As ever, the early-August highlight for me (in terms of the number of brain cells forever altered) was the SIGGRAPH conference, which was held in Boston this year. I only go to SIGGRAPH when I'm participating in some way, and this year I was on a panel called "Digital Rights, Digital Restrictions," on the always-popular subject of digital rights management (DRM). (In case you didn't know—and if you're reading this, I'd be surprised if you didn't—I've long been passionate about copyright and DRM; you can read some of my thoughts on the subjects here, here, here, here and—almost forgot—here.)

I was on the panel with Robert Ryang, who re-edited The Shining into a trailer for a feel-good family movie trailer called Shining; Karen Sandler, a lawyer at the Software Freedom Law Center; and Mitch Singer, executive vice-president of Sony Pictures' Digital Policy Group. I won't go into too much detail because other people have been paid to do just that (though I'm surprised the editor of the ZDNet article didn't catch that the reference to "fair play" should have been to the FairPlay DRM system that Apple uses). My only gripe is that the Boston Globe kinda sorta misrepresented what I was trying to get at. Kim-Mai Cutler wrote, "Emru Townsend of Frames Per Second magazine said that piracy and mash-ups were often good for artists because they generate publicity."

I've always had a problem trying to make this clear. Two aspects of anime piracy helped make the domestic anime industry viable: one was the evangelical nature of anime fans who kept insisting that ohmygodyouhavetoseethisrightnow, and second was that fandom evolved a form of self-policing to maximize publicity while minimizing negative financial impact. (I went into this at length in an article for Maisonneuve last year, titled "Piracy Is Good (Sometimes).") Frankly, most of the time when people use that argument, they're just trying to justify wholesale copying.

Gotta get back to work. Later.

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