Arts, Inc: how the DMCA, Clear Channel and copyright extension are killing culture

William James Ivey sez,
My new book, Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights, is just out (May 10). The idea for Arts, Inc. hit me when I was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, during Bill Clinton’s administration. I became convinced that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, copyright extension, and Clear-Channel-style media consolidation were undermining our basic rights to an arts system that really serves the public.

Things have only gotten worse. Congress and the FCC might think it’s important to institute hefty fines when Janet Jackson’s breast pops out during a Super Bowl telecast, but it’s shrinking Fair Use, globalized record companies and film studios – they serve shareholders, not art -- left-behind citizens who lack quality Internet access, and Viacom against Google and Microsoft stalking Yahoo that are the real threats to the vibrant cultural scene that’s essential in our democracy.

Arts, Inc. is on sale now. Look for interviews and reviews; I’ll be making the case around the country – at a performing arts conference in Denver next week, and at the Center for American Progress in DC in mid-July.



  1. Copyright is okay, copyright extending decades beyond the life of the copyrighter is not. Just because it’s not CC doesn’t mean it’s hypocritical.

  2. #1- Everything doesn’t have to be free in order to promote culture.

    The problem isn’t that people are selling art or wanting to protect their rights. It’s that companies like Clear Channel are controlling major distribution systems and using them in ways that benefit very few people.

  3. as an artist, this book sounds depressing. is there anything in the book that we artists should know or is it just a long rant about how bad life is?

  4. @#3: Exactly. A Founders’ Copyright (14 year expiration) is much more amenable to cultural progress than a CC-NoDerivs.

  5. Won’t the destruction of a culture not just create a different culture? Go with the flow, create your own world instead of clinging on to the last one.

  6. #7, I think the problem is that culture doesn’t tend to be created out of nowhere, it is slowly morphed over time as each person adds something to the already prevelant culture. We see this in literature, music, visual arts, and especially fashion. Anything which limits our ability to create something new from something old imposes a barrier to that change. It leaves us stuck with either making no changes or making drastic changes, and drastic changes are very difficult to make. In essence, it encourages things to stay the same, limiting the ability of others to add their creativity into the mix.

  7. #5, I think that was the author’s point. He was there when Clinton imposed the DMCA; he saw first-hand its devastating effects. The fact that he was chairman of the NEA during Clinton’s administration doesn’t imply that he was a supporter of Clinton or that he agreed with the DMCA.

  8. #8 Sure, but why would not not be a good time for more drastic change? I see it happening already: copyrighted content was being hijacked so much that more flexible content creators picked up on this mechanism and adapted to it. This is what the focus should be on, not the old failing mechanisms. It’s a drastic change.

    The book is called arts, inc. I haven’t read it, of course, but since when is arts something you can define and thus undermine?

    I seem to find that art springs from change, from shifts in perception. So, the process described in the book will create more art. Different art. Perhaps so different that we won’t be able to realize it’s art until our children tell us it is.

    Only that which springs from the process you describe, slow evolution, can be undermined. But perhaps that isn’t the actual art. If that is only a shallow evolution of the origins, is it worth worrying about?

  9. Observe what happened to the High Culture of the Renaissance when the Spaniards invaded Italy and instituted the Counter-Reformation.. it took Centuries before that level was again approached.
    American “Culture” is like mass-produced process cheese and it can’t go stale, but they haven’t changed the taste since 1978….
    From 1945 to 1975 the culture was changing very very fast and then came the “Counter-Reformation” of the Reagan years, continuing on today, with many of the very same “Actors” in prominent “roles”…and the Culture seems to have stopped moving except backwards.

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