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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 06:39 GMT 07:39 UK
'Amateur culture' set to explode
Professor Lawrence Lessig
Lawrence Lessig is the founder of Creative Commons
The 21st Century is seeing an explosion in the field of amateur culture and creativity, according to leading digital commentators.

Professor Lawrence Lessig, a champion of so-called "free culture", told the BBC digital technology was inspiring new forms of creativity.

Blogs, podcasts and digital photos are examples of amateur culture, he said.

"Digital tools are inspiring creativity in a way that I do not think we have seen in a very long time," he said.

Professor Lessig, who teaches law at Stanford University in the US, is a founder of Creative Commons, a set of copyright licenses which help creators share and protect their works.

He said: "If you think of the 20th Century as this period of professionalising creativity - you've got the film and recording industries which become the professional creators, separating and stifling in many ways the popular culture.

The Strangerhood
Amateur culture - TV shows made out of video games are growing in popularity

"I do not think you are going to see the elimination of the professional creators but you are going to see it complemented by a much wider range of amateur culture in the original sense of the word amateur - in that people do it purely for the love of creating."

Millions of people now have blogs - websites which are created using simple and free tools - and thousands of people are now podcasting, creating radio-style programmes which are distributed over the internet and can be transferred to MP3 players.

Participatory culture

There are a reported 60 million bloggers - writing everything from personal diaries to influential political rhetoric - and research firm The Duffusion Group recently predicted there will be 60 million podcasters in the US by 2010.

We see moving image and audio as having the same potential for contributing to people's live as books
Paul Gerhardt, BBC Creative Archive

Thousands of other people are remixing songs, making their own films and TV programmes and generally participating in culture rather than being passive consumers.

Professor Lessig said this rise in amateur culture was not without its problems as the desire to be creative often clashes with that of traditional creators and content distributors.

'Extraordinary potential'

"Many of the professional creators don't get it - they can't imagine a world where creativity is not controlled," he said.

"But they should recognise this amateur creativity has extraordinary potential for them too."

All the copy protection in the world won't stop Ukrainian pirate gangs from stamping out millions of high-quality counterfeits a month
Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow, a campaigner for digital rights with lobby group Electronic Frontier Foundation, agreed.

"We are in a pretty pitched battle on many, many fronts," he said.

Big media companies are imposing copy protection restrictions on what consumers can do with their purchases - whether they are CDs, DVDs, or digital songs - in an effort to prevent piracy.

But Mr Doctorow said: "All the copy protection in the world won't stop Ukrainian pirate gangs from stamping out millions of high-quality counterfeits a month."

Professor Lessig and Mr Doctorow believe the attitude of big business is stifling amateur creativity.


They want to see consumers take professional creative works they have bought and then alter them and share them with other people.

Professor Lessig gave an example of how it could work with the television industry.

"Imagine you are Channel 4 and you have a new series to be released.

"What you do is each week put the latest episode online and invite people to remix it.

"So you create this huge community of people remixing your content and you create this huge community of people watching your programme each week."

The BBC is undertaking a long-term project to release hundreds of hours of its TV and radio archive online so that people can use it in creative ways.

Paul Gerhardt, head of the BBC's Creative Archive scheme, said: "We see moving image and audio as having the same potential for contributing to people's lives as books and the written word did.


"In other words, we all get inspired by what we read and we share it with others and we think nothing of quoting from it or building our creativity on it.

"Yet it is almost impossible to access moving images or audio with the same ease and to use it in the same way."

Mr Doctorow said the digital age - plus the growth in use of the Creative Commons license - was also fuelling collaborations between artists and authors, some of whom may never have met in real life.

Creative Commons is a licence which sets out in simple terms what others can or cannot do with any creative work.

"We wanted a set of tools that would make it easy for artists to mark their creativity with the freedoms that they intended to carry," said Professor Lessig.

"Just as Apple and Microsoft provide tools for people to make music or documents we provide tools for people to solve legal problems.

"Some creators will be happy for people to make non-commercial use of their work and we have a simple way of showing that.

"Others are happy for people to make commercial use and we have simple way for them to enforce that."


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