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The oXcars is an awards show that celebrates free culture and supports the belief that all citizens have the right to benefit from the exchange of information and culture. Live footage from the first ever oXcars held in Barcelona last October has been edited into an hour long movie. I saw a screening of the film in Amsterdam at the Winter Camp 09 festival last month, but now the movie is freely available on the Exgae website (and I’ve posted it below). The oXcars featured live performances from free culture artists and musicians, as well as educational films and dialogue defending “piracy” and criticizing intellectual property rights.
The oXcars is an interesting experiment. Putting together an awards ceremony and deeming some pieces of artwork “superior” and award-worthy gets people’s attention. I think it is similar to the signature “leaves” label given at independent film festivals: regardless of which festival the movie was presented at, people see the leaves and like to say to friends, “so-and-so movie won an award” (implying that therefore it must be worth watching). Awards can cast an aura, and seemingly they make something more desirable. This in turn helps solve problems of discoverability (being able to find quality content). One of the problems with a site like Jamendo (and the web in general) is that there is too much free content and I never know what I should pay attention to or what is junk. Awards help in this case by making suggestions for us.
oXcars 2009 is already in the works, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be long before a category like “Best Creative Commons Licensed Movie” was included in some of the independent festivals (or even at the Oscars), or if Pitchfork started a Top 10 of free culture musicians. How might this celebration of free culture affect commercial culture?
Some of the highlights for me include an intellectual property Q&A game (8:20), the “Advanced Realities” screening documenting that follows (12:10), and P2P pioneer Pablo Soto’s acceptance speech (35:16) where he talks about his interview with former-RIAA present Cary Serman on NPR.
As a follow up to this post I’ve included some excerpts from the “conclusions” which were published on the oXcars website:
Above all, the oXcars were a question of attitude, a way of being in the world.
The kind of attitude that recognises the fact that things have changed through the efforts of all the pioneers who have spent years proposing a new paradigm for the production and diffusion of knowledge and those who defend it as a right, and thanks to the natural way in which society is using new technology.
The idea of the oXcars was to put the spotlight on this situation, and to break some of the taboos surrounding it. To act as a bridge between all of the hard background work and the general public who don’t always get to find out about it. And to do it using all available channels, even the mainstream.
We’ve worked from a strategic belief that there is a need to draw attention to these practices, and give them value within society. The oXcars made an effort to include very different realities side by side, because we think it is important to defend shared culture through a clearly identifiable response that respects the specific nature of each path, while sticking to the final objectives. We think that free culture can only exist if it recognises talent and the contributions of each individual. Only then can we provide a dense response, one that comes in so many forms and is so ubiquitous that it is beyond the reach of any attack.