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CAL-Meanjin lecture

Overland readers might be interested in the event series hosted by Meanjin.

Meanjin is pleased to announce the first of the CAL/Meanjin lectures, to be held at the Perth Writers’ Festival (February 28 – March 2). The CAL/Meanjin lecture series, will be held at major writers’ festivals throughout 2009 and 2010. As Australia’s foremost literary journal, Meanjin takes seriously its responsibility to engage, provoke, confront, reflect and inspire. The series, funded by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), is intended to draw the spotlight to issues facing the creative industries today.

In Perth, on Sunday 1 March at 2pm, Jane Gleeson-White will talk about the power of different storytelling traditions and the capacity of literature to influence our lives. The lecture will tie in with Gleeson-White’s essay ‘To Prevent Contact’, published in the 2008 December edition of Meanjin. Gleeson-White has worked as a writer and editor since 1990, and is the author of Australian Classics: 50 great writers and their celebrated works. Editor Sophie Cunningham will also appear on a panel with the editors of Westerly and indigo to discuss the role of literary journals in discovering new talent and their function as alternatives to mainstream publishing.

At the Sydney Writers’ Festival (May 18 – 24), the CAL/Meanjin lecture will feature Lynne Spender on the question of whether intellectual property can or should be owned, a discussion which builds on the issues brought to light by her essay in the forthcoming June edition. Sophie Cunningham will take part in a panel on literary journals, as well as co-hosting a social event with Overland aimed at giving writers, publishers, editors and readers a chance to meet and connect.

The final talk for 2009 will take place at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival (August 7 – 9), with Sian Prior, Colin Friels and Sophie Cunningham. The discussion will spring from an essay by Sian Prior in the forthcoming June edition on the effects of shyness and introversion. Here, panellists will focus on the tension between public faces versus private selves, and how perception and the media can influence our professional lives.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jeff Sparrow is the former editor of Overland. He is the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, the editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the author of Communism: a love story, Killing: Misadventures in violence, and Money Shot: A Journey into Censorship and Porn.  On Twitter, he's @Jeff_Sparrow.

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  1. Jeff, I found a great quote by John Kinsella here in Overland. I think it was in a reply to a savage review. I have out the quote in the top right hand of corner of my blog which nobody reads with a link to his personal site. What in your professional opinion is the correct attribution in a situation like this, given that in bloggoland copyrighting ideas is impossible but that proper attribution is a key issue of consideration in any healthy creative community? P.S. Sorry I was too lazy to go looking for an email address for either of you, or a proper forum.
    Yours sincerely,
    Paul.

  2. You see, Jeff, it surprises me that anyone would even ask this question in a serious forum; “the question of whether intellectual property can or should be owned.” It certainly wouldn’t be asked by anyone who depends on their creativity for a living or who has had something they sweated over for months ripped off by a bunch of myspace spammers. It seems indicative of a kind of spreading culturally-cancerous cycnical nihilism that denies that creativity or originality are even possible, the kind of attitude that gives rise to the abomination that is flarf and mashups. Either that or it is another example of how the Australian cultural agenda is not being created by practioners or audience by a small coterie of boojwah intellectuals trying to get publishing credits and develop CV’s, particularly in the oh so hip area of the Arts And The Internet, without any actual real life experience. Is it any wonder that every time I look at anything to do with Australian culture or literature that isn’t generated by artists themselves I feel this overwhelming sense of disgust and futility? Am I wrong to feel this way?

  3. Dunno. I mean, yeah, there’s plenty to be disgusted about but I don’t see why the ownership of copyright should be the basis on which artists make a living. Leaving aside the question as to whether it’s even going to be technically possible to enforce copyright in the future, why do we have to think about art in terms of ownership? It certainly hasn’t always been that way. Who owns a folk song, for instance?
    Copyright law developed at a particular time — it’s not an eternal model for how art should be regulated.

  4. Well a new model for how artists can make a living in a world without copyright and in which anyone can reproduce anything infinitely and distribute it instantly would certainly be appreciated. Live performance is one, but it’s limited. Any ideas? If I pulled an RSS feed from your blog here as the only content under another URL and added google adsense to make money then pulled an audience through social networking, all of which I could do in about two hours, would you not feel ripped off? If I printed off ten thousand copies of your book and sold them and paid you no royalites? A new model that worked would be great and a little focus on the practical realities would be cool. (see also The Orphan Act being introduced into the US Senate this year and the Shephard Fairley court cases over the Obama posters). If I don’t own the work, how can I make a living out of it?

  5. Sounds like you should go to the Meanjin lecture! :-)
    Your examples are good ones. Actually, I’ve never really made much money from books, certainly not compared to the amount of time that writing takes. In Australia, at least, most writers are more concerned about getting their ideas out than they are about the royalties, simply cos it’s so hard to make money out of writing here. Any poet would be begging you to make ten thousand copies of their book!
    And there are all kinds of other models through which the arts could be funded. Increasingly, musicians accept that music will be downloaded for free, so one unexpected corollary of the digital revolution is that live music has become more important — rock bands make their money from touring, and so often don’t mind if their music gets freely copied.
    In terms of literature in Australia, the other obvious point is arts funding. Most literary writers rely on the Australia Council or tertiary institutions for support. Sales of their books are almost a bonus.

  6. Jeff, you sound dangerously like the wacked out ‘creative commons’ school. Say it ain’t so.

    Copyright law isn’t just about royalties and ‘permissions’. I was copyright licensing manager for Viscopy for two years and what I saw during that time convinced me of the necessity of copyright law (and no, not because it’s how I make my ‘bread money’).

    Examples of moral rights infringements I encountered include the unauthorised reproduction of sacred indigenous artworks on cigarette packets, the ‘cropped’ reproductions of indigenous artworks where, for example, a painting representing a family has been only partially reproduced on something like a tea towel, splitting the ‘family’ in two.

    Often artists who contacted me were concerned more with the preventing the desecration of their art, rather than financial compensation.

    In saying that, artists are perhaps the most disadvantaged group of creators, and the recent introduction of a Resale Royalty (starting July 2009) will be welcome income I’m sure, despite what most auction houses and commercial galleries would have us believe.

  7. Yeah, I am leaning towards creative commons. Funnily enough, have just been reading the new novel by Cory Doctorow, the sf guy who influenced me a lot on this stuff.
    I agree the things you mention are problems but am not convinced that existing copyright law is the best way to deal with it. Right at the moment, I’ve had too much to drink to say anything coherent on the topic but will try to post something more sensible in the next day or so.

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