Copycamp logo

Bryce has a great video taking a look at the controversial $700 unconference coming to Toronto called CopyCamp.

The premise of the event is straight forward but important: to bring artists together to talk about the Internet and its challenge to copyright.

It’s been picked up by a couple folks, including Boing Boing and Torontoist, and by far the biggest question seems to be: where did that $700 pricetag come from given that *camps have made a tradition of being free?

Now, it’s quite acceptable for events to vary the model as desired; charging an entry fee is just one of those options, as is setting the agenda before the event begins. Open space comes in more than just one form and variations on a theme are a good thing for the development of an ecosystem of events.

My concern with the size of the fee in this case, however, is about who will end up being excluded from the conversation — and how those people’s absences will affect the quality and rigor of the debate. Even with subsidies, anything over $50 can be a considerable burden for potential attendees. And this kind of approach seems weak or fraught with unfairness and overhead:

For people who want to come: you can get into the event either by buying a ticket (recommended for suits) or applying to have your spot paid for (recommended for artists and other “creators”). We’re trying to get the best participants we can, and we plan on giving away a lot of free spots to people who we really want there, especially people who are excited about contributing to the event.

It was that issue that lead us to make the BarCamp model as flat and low-cost as possible, because the conversation shouldn’t be limited only to those who can afford to pay-to-play. I suppose that one might make the case that since the topic here seems to be about copyright and the artist’s ability to profit from her work, the folks attending have a vested economic interest in pushing this conversation forward. At the same time, I think that the creators of free or open culture have something to add to the mix, but I can’t imagine that they’d be able to spring for an event with such a high monetary barrier to entry. This kind of event need not be free, but for every extra $50 you add to the cost, there’s a whole range of folks who can’t ante up.

However it plays out, Bryce has proposed CopyCatCamp, a free (as in beer) alternative, possibly to be held in a universally accessible food court. Sounds to me a bit like history repeating — but in the end, I’d love to see both models succeed. This topic is far too important to not bring folks together around it, and CopyCamp is just the first of what surely will turn into a long-term debate on the future of intellectual property.

So, one last thing: I wonder what the license for reuse of the CopyCamp mark is…