Design culture is obsessed with authenticity. Copying is often deemed reprehensible, and borrowing another’s idea or incorporating elements of his or her work into one’s own is viewed as a sign of creative impoverishment. But is this right? What’s wrong with interpreting someone else’s creation? Musicians have been quoting each other’s work for centuries – why shouldn’t the same thing happen in other creative disciplines? Where does quotation end and copying begin?
Businesses and creators diligently protect their creative, technical and technological property – rightly so, as large sums are often invested in their development. But is intellectual property protection appropriate in an age of digital distribution, when it’s difficult to identify a product’s author, maker or inventor? And in a culture in which quotation and copying have long led to enrichment and innovation, should these acts be made impossible?
Copy/Culture in Berlin
At the first Copy/Culture Symposium in June 2011, experts discussed attitudes to copying in design (cult vs. culture) and industry's response to it. We looked at copying from a range of angles. The designer Erik Spiekermann, for instance, said everyone was welcome to use his fonts – but if they started making money from them, they’d better watch out. Meanwhile, the Beijing Design Week curator Aric Chen called copying an inevitable transitional stage for emerging economies and industries like China. Other guests included the Erasmus University Rotterdam philosopher Henk Oosterling, Philips Design vice president Paul Gardien, and Aram Sinnreich, the author of Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture.
Copy/Culture in Beijing
After a successful symposium in Berlin, Premsela and DMY International Design Festival Berlin travelled to Beijing with the Association of Dutch Designers for a second edition on 27 September, during the city’s design week. We discussed attitudes to copying in design with Bert de Muynck, an architect, writer and co-founder of MovingCities; graphic designer and art director Ronald Tau; Jiang Jun, a designer, critic and founding editor of Urban China magazine; intellectual property lawyer Allen Wang; Frans Vogelaar, a partner at Berlin's Hybrid Space Lab and Cologne's Academy for Media Arts; and Anouk Siegelaar, a legal specialist with the Association of Dutch Designers.
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