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copyright blues

Posted by tworabbits on 2006.01.19 at 14:52
Current Mood: dizzy, of course
Current Music: head spinning
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There are some pretty interesting things going on in the torrid world of copyright these days. I have recently been listening to the Debate of the Century that occurred at Cornell University on April 15, 2005. It's long (three hours) and somewhat dizzying. If you have the patience, you can hear experts in music, internet rights, copyright law, communication, and film battle it out, and listen to the pointed responses of snarky students.

Despite the fact that the debate is close to a year old, most of the issues are still under heavy debate. Courtesy of some fairly egregious trampling of privacy rights, more people know about the issues (thanks, Sony!). Hey, even I know about them. But there are so many sides to the 'What Should Be Done About This' debate that voting seems easy in comparison. And many people don't seem to believe that this directly affects them.

Of course, working in publishing makes copyright a little bit more personal. My living comes from helping others earn their living. So I definitely want what's best for the artists involved. In addition to this, I am a writer myself. While it's extremely doubtful that anyone would want to appropriate my work without permission, I can understand how it might feel if someone did so.

Traditionally, publishers (and authors) have been slow to change. Google's recent library project met with resistance from all sectors. Perhaps it makes some amount of sense to limit the rights of the public. Most artists desire at least the right to have a say in how their work is used.

However, many of those same artists have benefited from having a vast library of content at their disposal. Peer-to-peer has made it incredibly easy to access work that is obscure or no longer available for purchase. Podcasts have broadened my own knowledge exponentially. There are legal ways (iTunes, Napster) to get this content, but there are also fairly restrictive conditions attached to this freedom. Which begs the question--is it better to be a well-protected artist that no one has heard of, or a starving artist who everybody knows?

Does this even matter to spoken word artists? After all, one of the hallmarks of the spoken word tradition has been the emphasis on live shows. Sure, you can find a recording. Sure, you can copy a chapbook. But there's nothing like watching a dynamic performer woo a crowd in a smoky bar.


A spoken word artist's career is largely made by reputation. The more people that know (and hopefully like) an artist, the easier it will be for them to book shows. Since there's a heavy emphasis on touring, there will already be dozens of bootleg recordings of any well-respected performer. As poets begin to take advantage of new technology to extend their reach, they will reach more people. And if you're good, it's already out there. In a way, this is a compliment.

However, I've heard several stories of poets standing in the back of a room listening to another artist perform their work without credit. And an artist who makes their living solely by touring and merchandise sales may have reason to worry if no one buys their CDs.

Spoken word is changing. Though it still isn't exactly mainstream, performance poetry is certainly no longer underground. Poets now make appearances on television, in major festivals, and on the printed page. Obviously, I'm pretty happy about the opportunity to put some very talented people in print. As spoken word artists become more well-known to the general public, copyright is going to become a concern.

At the moment, it seems that public opinion is in favour of artists who are embracing the internet as an opportunity to expand their audience. This may or may not be a passing phenomenon. Perhaps as people get accustomed to free music, e-books, and downloadable recordings, the warm fuzzy glow of being given something for free will fade. I hope someone will start studying this, because I'd like to hear some instances in which this course of action did not benefit the author. At the moment, however, it's working in their favour.

Consider the words of Canadian MP Charlie Angus, quoted in the April 2005 CAUT Bulletin:Collapse )

As the sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow says in the fascinating preface to his third book, "...giving away books increases your notoriety a whole lot more than clutching them to your breast and damning the pirates."

I think he's right. Whatever you think, you should go say so.


google ogles shane

Posted by tworabbits on 2006.01.16 at 15:05
Current Mood: all right, thanks
Current Music: you don't meet nice girls in coffee shops
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Also, Visiting Hours is now indexed on Google Book Search. Hooray for the internet!

It's not working quite as I expected--I find it when I search for Shane directly, but so far it's not finding specific lines.

And I had so hoped that I'd be able to type in "the aliens will probably masturbate while thinking of you" and arrive at the book. Just sayin'.

But I guess you can't have everything.

Posted by tworabbits on 2006.01.16 at 15:02
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Tags: ,
Visiting Hours was chosen for the Globe and Mail's 2005 Books of the Year list.

He was selected by writer Dave Bidini. Here is Dave's review:

My band -- The Rheostatics-- toured BC this past October. Months before, I was driving the Crown Vic through the stupid rain when I heard a poem on Nora Young’s radio show, The Future: a weird love poem to Britney spears incanted by a writer identified as Shane Corson. Having clearly underestimated the extended talents of the scrappy ex-Maple Leaf winger, I googled his published work, only to discover that Nora had said “Koyczan,” not “Corson” (the Shane (sic) part I got right). I corresponded with Koyczan, and then, in the fall, he opened our Western shows. A big Kelvinator of a man who loves “women and free food,” Shane swallowed the stage with the power of his verse, stepping from subdued deep hot sad love poetry to hip-hop power chord meta-meter, throttling the crowd with the weight of his rhymes, and effectively wiping the stage with us.

While on tour we received copies of his first book, Visiting Hours...which is all that Shane is live, as fast and cool, and now as thrillingly rich and moving. And so, a whole new generation of rhyme readers will be born.


hooray! shameless name-dropping

Posted by tworabbits on 2005.12.01 at 02:27
Joel Pott, lead singer for Athlete says nice things about Shane in The Observer:

I found Visiting Hours...a collection of work by Canadian poet Shane Koyczan, in a lovely little bookstore in Toronto. I picked it up and straight away read '6:59am' and 'Skin 3' and was hooked. He has an ability to take you straight to the heart of what on the surface may seem like mundane actions but which turn out to be much more complex. He makes you feel the depth of love, joy and pain in everyday life. Love, after all, is in everything.

so lovely. i get so ridiculously happy when good things happen for this guy.

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