Ian MacKenzie: “I think CC arose as a response to the desire of remix”

Filmmaker & Crowdfunding writer,  Ian MacKenzie, Twitter profile picture (@ianmack)

Ian MacKenzie, filmmaker and crowdfunding writer (@ianmack)

Another interview from Canadians using CC licenses: Ian MacKenzie was one of the panelists at the Creative Commons Canada Salon in Vancouver, October 15. He is not only a filmmaker, now known specially for the documentary about Occupy Wall Street movement, “Occupy Love”, but also an advocate for crowdfunding as a new, innovative and alternative way to fund his productions. We talked by Skype about this and more:

– When did you first hear about Creative Commons?

I started knowing about Creative Commons because I was using Flickr and I saw they featured options for Creative Commons. From there I started looking through it and researching on it and the philosophy behind Creative Commons. I liked the idea Flickr was integrated with Creative Commons and that helped a lot, you don’t need to go to every single photo, they allow you to do it in a mass and that help a lot, is very easy. Most of my stuff is Creative Commons licensed now and Flickr was my introduction to it.

– However, not all your work is licensed under Creative Commons, why?

Almost all of my photos are under Creative Commons, unless if it’s a photo of my close family or me. I kind of add that on a privacy issue. For videos, I usually differentiate if I own all of the rights, then I put it on Creative Commons, or if I don’t own all of the rights, then is not really my place to put it under Creative Commons if somebody else have the rights.

– Did you had plagiarism issues with your work under Creative Commons?

There may be a couple. One of my films is called “The Revolution is Love” and somebody else put it up under the tagline The Evolution is Love or something like that, and it was my exact same video so. Sometimes, if I see they’re deliberately trying to steal it, I may do report it if it’s one of my films, one that is significant, but, otherwise, if it’s just somebody putting it out there and say “original is over here”, I don’t mind it that much, somebody could find it and my name  is in the film itself, as well, so that’s why I don’t tend to mind that much about plagiarism.

But what I have noticed, in a good ways, is that when I use Creative Commons, people will start making really interesting remixes and stuff like taking portions of my work and integrating it to their own work. It is really great, actually. The experimentation that happens because I do it in Creative Commons is way more interesting than worrying about copyright.

– But the experimentation happened even before than Creative Commons started, right?

I think Creative Commons arose as a response to the desire of remix. People felt like they wanted to and they could, with the tools but in most cases it was illegal because there was no way to actually say “I want it to be use as Creative Commons” so I see Creative Commons, initially, as a response to the desire for both, people that wanted to remix and creators who don’t mind sharing their work to be remixed. Then, now that is more incorporated in Flickr, Vimeo and things like that now is supporting people in remixing.

– Then, why is Creative Commons still not commonly known?

I think Creative Commons is still under the radar for most people. It’s hard to say, maybe a large-scale public effort to educate the public and say, “there’s this new model of collaboration and sharing, that is, in essence, the opposite of copyright” and I think people may find that encouraging that is out there and hopefully inspire them to go and remix things and that kind of stuff.

But, it happened the same with RSS feeds. I started using RSS feeds when they first came up (2004-2005), with blogging and stuff but, till this date, most people don’t know what RSS are.  So, I think these things are destined to only be within certain groups, in this case creators and remixers. Maybe the public, at large, is not so much interested, but I believe that the more people will know about it, the more encourage they become to be out there doing this kind of work, remixing and experimenting, knowing that there are models to share their work legally and encouraging creativity.

– Coul be that, in the future, Creative Commons completely replace the current copyright model?

There’s a wider adoption from the political system and that will definitely go a long way. I don’t see it, in the future, the idea of copyright or copyleft; I think they’ll be seen as different types, different levels of sharing. The terminology may stay for a while but not the understanding that every piece of work is created, once we will start understanding that you have the whole spectrum of possibilities you can offer up. Sometimes, you want to keep copyright because you spend a long time putting something together and you want to be fairly compensated and the more traditional copyright model or other times you are like “I don’t mind sharing this and see what experimentations will happen. I think, in the future, the boundaries between these two models will come down and all that will be part of a spectrum.

– What Creative Commons licence do you usually use?

I typically do Attributtion Non-Commercial, so people are free to do what they want as long as they attribute and are not to make money, to sell it directly.

– How do you manage to make a living of your work, specially your work under Creative Commons licences?

I’m not put out there as a photographer,that is more like a hobby, where my filmmaking is more my main career. I differentiate. A  lot of things I put online – shortfilms, interviews… – I do as a gift to the community, to the people, and I tend to put those under “Share Alike” licences, where my feature films, like “One Week Job”, a feature film I did in 2010, is not online for free, is more like you can purchase it on DVD. For my more significant projects, I tend to have a more traditional style of payment and distribution, where all the little things is done as a gift to the community, as the teachers I met and I want the world to know.

– The videos under Creative Commons you upload are  reel or a way to promote you as a filmmaker, then?

I found the more I put away, the more people want to follow and support me and want to see my work.The works I put under Creative Commons do not work as a showreel, because they’re full works like the “Sacred Economics” – a 12 minutes feature, but fully available. That is not like a promotion per se and, at the same time, it helps getting people know about my work and get them excited about what I do… at some sense it is promotional but they are complete works.

For works that I distribute in a traditional way, I put trailers online and I also distribute short films that I do. With “Occupy Love”, the director and I offered, during the production, shorts under Creative Commons that became some kind of promotion for the film themselves. It’s more difficult for feature films to license under Creative Commons because there is a lot of footage we use that other people owns and we cannot give it away under Creative Commons. So it becomes tricky when you have other people’s footage.

– How related is Creative Commons to the social movements like Occupy Wall Street, featured in “Occupy Love”?

The social movements allowed people to remix the footage and ripple it out around the world. The movements themselves are all about open towards a more open culture and, in this way, you can call Creative Commons a structural embodiment of more open culture, it crystalizes structure that is acceptable within the society.

– What about crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding allows products to be created in a world where they may not necessarily get traditional types of funding. For me, it is another example of decentralized shift in the economic system and that is exciting for me. We actually did that for “Occupy Love”: we raised over $80,000 and from that experience I realized that is quite a powerful platform and decided to learn more about myself so I can show other people. Certainly, it will continue help my upcoming productions.

– Has it a connection with the Creative Commons philosophy?

I definitely see a connection between crowdfunding and Creative Commons. Crowdfunding lands us more in a open culture. That doesn’t mean necessarily that every crowdfunding product has to be under Creative Commons, but I think is more aligned with the philosophy of Creative Commons.It made a lot of sense for us to put not the final film but shorts films on the production of “Occupy Love” because we’ve being funded by the open crowd and is our way to give it back and share that materials so they can share and remix it.

You can find more informantion about MacKenzie’s work at his website.
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