It all started with a story. I come from a long line of storytellers, my father telling the one about how he convinced his buddies Bigfoot was lurking in the high Sierras in the 1960s, my grandmother telling the one about my aunt vomiting all over the posh Claremont Hotel in front of horrified society folks, my grandfather twisting gnarled fingers around his cane as he recounted his battle on WWII Peleleiu.
Some of the stories are true as a halftrack on the coral beach. Some grow like cloud castles from just a small grain of truth.
We do it in our own family, telling and retelling stories, sitting around the table, in the car, in front of friends. The time my husband was jailed in Peru (he got out), the time the house got struck by lightning (on our anniversary, no less!), the time the Dali Lama petted my husband’s cheek (he was quirky).
We love stories of others too: the books that inspire (Les Miserables) and amuse (Carry On, Jeeves); the movies that shine light (The Tree of Life) or help us through hard days (Galaxy Quest), the songs that excite (Hamilton’s The World Turned Upside Down) or soar (anything by Whitney Houston!).
As a television and movie critic, I am increasingly amazed at the passion, talent, earned skill, and old fashioned hard work that goes into making stories in the modern era. It takes decades of training, not to mention significant financial investment, to become a filmmaker, a photographer, a songwriter, a screenwriter, a graphic artist, a creator. I have come to deeply respect those who make art and/or entertainment. It’s not easy.
They tell our stories.
Stories can be shared. “You’ll never guess what happened to my aunt’s friend’s cousin!” They can be recommended. “Seriously. Watch ‘No Country for Old Men.'” But it just feels wrong if they are taken.
The Dali Lama petted my husband’s cheek, not someone else’s. Jean Valjean came out of the imagination of Victor Hugo, not some schmuck at a Starbucks.
I think this is why copyright matters to me. There is an integrity to it. An honesty to owning your own work, your own art, your own story, against all the world.
Sure there are nuances and edges to that right, and that’s where the fun comes in.
I’m Rebecca Cusey. I am a third year law student at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason, a writer, a lover of art, and a person fascinated with how the law intersects with that. I’ll be blogging here thanks to the good people at the Copyright Alliance. Here we go.