Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Can you copyright a brain?

I just got back from an interesting (although limited) session on Canadian copyright for artists at Kingston's Artel, which got some mental juices going from something I heard about when I was visiting the Dynamic Graphics Project (where I'm doing my Master's)

There is currently ongoing research in augmenting participant's memory and other cognitive abilities using recording devices, for both Alzheimer's and Autism. From what I have heard, the results of using a recording device is incredibly valuable. In one case where a camera would hang around an Alzheimer's patient's neck and intermittently take pictures throughout the day, memory performance was compared to a control group and the use of a diary. It was found that not only did reviewing the recorded pictures perform better in event recall but that, whereas other memory-recording techniques would fade over time, the use of pictures which were reviewed once ensured that the memories created were permanent. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the original paper to link to.

Now, let's return to copyright. Recently, there has been an unfortunate movement to ban public photography, frequently on the basis of copyright as a guise to prevent terrorism. While I think that this is clearly ridiculous, not to mention simply impractical, it raises the question of where the information is going (and how can we wrangle it!). I mean, should my friend with photographic memory not be allowed out in public, unless she is equipped with some sort of distraction device so she can't concentrate on creating a "copy" of the surroundings? I think we all can agree that we cannot control the existence of a "copy" in a human brains, except perhaps that which falls under a non-disclosure agreement. This is illustrated humorously above in the ingenious xkcd.

So then, if we cannot copyright brain contents, yet we can copyright pictures, then what about the Alzheimer's patients who could use photography to augment their daily lives. In fact, they would not be able to function as normal human beings without it. You could say, then, that the camera is, in fact, an extension of and therefore is a part of their brain and similar laws should apply. I'm on the patient's side.

1 comment:

Greg said...

"That's a great post. Here's a website on developing
photographic memory. Check out the tips that they offer. They worked pretty well for me. It's at http://www.photographic-memory.org"