We’ll decide how you get off.


I got back to Sydney yesterday, and Nick invited me to dinner and drinks with good friends of his here, Joseph and Darren (and their friend Tiffany). When I asked (as I often do) how Nick knew them, I was told that he and Joseph both used to work for the Australian Classification Board. This led to a very interesting discussion about what the board does. In essence, they give films their classification (what we in the US would call their rating). So at first I just thought they were the rating board. But here in Australia, EVERY film must be given a classification, and those that are refused classification are banned. I then started asking what sorts of things would be banned and it was a very interesting (and quite subjective) list. Much of it compares quite similarly to the recent British moves to ban representations of certain sex acts. Basically, the government is in the business of deciding what you can fantasize about and have represented on film, either in real or simulated form. As a gay person, I obviously find this utterly abhorrent. It was not so very long ago that activity comprising my own love life would have fallen into such categories and been banned. I don’t have problems with a rating system. But the government that tries to ban a list of sexual practices represented on film between consenting adults is the same government that can ban any idea it disagrees with. And the censorship does not stop at films, the Australian government also bans video games and TV programs and a whole lot of things on the internet.

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been singing the praises of many of the programs and policies here in Australia in the past few weeks, but here is something where I wholeheartedly prefer the much weaker censorship we have in the United States. The Australians don’t have anything like our first amendment, and perhaps that is the reason for the huge difference.

Whose Tube?


I am currently working on the archive site of deceased filmmaker (my friend Andrew in fact), and as I have been uploading his films to YouTube for embedding, I have noticed some very strange automated censorship at work:

With a number of the films, it appears that YouTube has some fairly sophisticated content scanning happening. So, for instance if it detects some song playing in the background of a scene, it will notify you that you may be in violation of copyright or something similar. In some cases, they will actually block your video automatically with a claim from some large company (in my case it was EMI), effectively judging you guilty of violation first, and making you prove your innocence to them to get it unblocked. WTF, who needs SOPA if private companies will censor for you? And it is always the huge corporations that have the power here, YouTube won’t be blocking and filtering just anyone’s content.

We have a big big problem with copyright and patent law run amok. Fair use is practically non existant, and shrinking more every day. The original intent of laws to protect copyright were limited and in the common interest. Not so any more, we are destroying our culture’s ability to create, which is always based on prior work and its appropriation and reinterpretation. Without free creative reign, our culture is weakened and stagnant. While a few people get very rich, the rest of us get screwed.

A guy named Kirby Ferguson deals with these issues clearly and eloquently in his excellent series, “Everything is a Remix“, I highly recommend watching all four parts (but if you watch only one, please see part 4 as it really brings it all home).