who owns/controls what in the world?

the current topic of discussion in our course is copyright.

this is a topic that i’ve struggled to fully understand the complexities of being able to know what is copyrighted, who owns the copyright, who benefits from the copyright, what is fair use, and (just added to my list this semester) what is creative commons copyright.

i think of artists i know (musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, actors, etc) and some conversations with them. i learned that their creative work was not necessarily thought of as a means to survive and pay bills (which is important), but that the expression of creativity takes precedence. the focus is not always about how much money they make (or don’t make), but instead about who inspires them and how much they appreciate their fans/followers/audience.

copyright is not always at the forefront of their minds, as long as they earn enough money to keep doing what they love.

but copyright is a big issue for people who want to share and enjoy what they did not create.

these are big questions for everyone who listens to music, watches films and tv shows, or reads books or newspapers. breaking the copyright law gets expensive, so i was advised to be careful how i use copyrighted media from a financial standpoint.

but i seldom thought about the ethical dimensions to copyright law and usage.

for example, who actually benefits from the copyright: the artists who put forth their creativity or the corporations who represent them? once the person(s) who first developed the creative component die(s), how should their work be distributed and shared with the rest of the population? once we purchase something like a cd or dvd, what rights do i have to share what i own? what happens to creativity and freedom if everything is legalized?

my dilemma is when it’s not the artist who benefits, but a corporation who did not actually use their creativity but maintains control.

as a theologian, i am not sure how to respond. i want to think that creativity is God-given (because it is) and ought to be shared without anyone but the original creator benefiting. and i’m excited to hear about individuals who are intentionally providing people with free access to their work provided they are cited as the source so that they can be recognized for their skill and contributions.


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