Appropriation: Unstoppable

The law will never be able to adequately define the difference between right and wrong/legal and illegal/valuable and worthless within art appropriation. How can something determined by opinion be static? A good set of laws should be able to be applied fairly to each situation concerning the practice. Of course there are parts of fair use law that reference limits of appropriated pieces in a derivative art work – using percentages – but this measurable element is merely one aspect of fair use. It seems that the most serious determiner used in court cases concerning art appropriation is the presence of a message within the work – usually a result of transforming the original. We’ve seen that artists on trial who cannot really express an adequate message (a basic worthwhile idea will usually suffice) for their work are usually punished. But how can an “adequate message” really be defined? Unless one judge with unwavering criteria for the existence of an adequate message is employed in every case, we’ll never get a consistent view. And we all know that court rulings set precedent, clarifying the law.

Many artists really have an unfair advantage when it comes to protecting their work through legal battles. A lot of issues would never come to light if it weren’t for all the resources behind some of the biggest artists, who sometimes seem to abuse their legal power – threatening everyone in sight, even if their claims are  less than sturdy. Actually, the vast majority of artists who have had their work appropriated unfairly are unlikely to have the funds to take legal action, so artists who have appropriated unfairly are unlikely to see any kind of lawsuit. Both situations seem wildly unjust.

I think most people who enjoy art agree that appropriation can be a valuable method, as long as the artist adheres to common ethics and transforms an original work with a purpose. Combined with all these matters of opinion, technology’s role is substantial – the internet allows art appropriation to spread like wildfire, programs available for easy editing are widespread, and the law simply cannot keep up. Fstoppers article, “The Stolen Scream”, is a shocking account of the speed at which appropriation can thrust an image around the globe. Noam Galai used Flickr to post a few particularly compelling pictures of himself screaming online – two years later, a friend showed him a work she found which was essentially an appropriation of his image. Now, five years later, works using and profiting from his image have shown up in thousands of places all over the world. Galai has absolutely no control over his photographs – he’s tried to contact those who use them illegally, but to no substantial outcome. Galai maintains that he is flattered by the appropriation, but has a problem with it once others profit off of his work. I recommend watching the video, as it really illustrates the way in which appropriation can spin out of control through the Internet. It would be impossible to follow up on all of these cases stemming from one person – how can we attempt to regulate every instance of appropriation? There really is no stopping it, and it is quite unfair that (usually) only those who are already successful have the time and money to do something about it.

Aren’t derivative works a bit more credible and worth looking at since they build upon others’ established ideas? Appropriation artists who build upon known works are inserting themselves into the realm of acclaimed art, which, I suppose, is also one of the effects that those against appropriation balk at. I understand that artists would like to protect their ideas, but isn’t good art supposed to invoke some kind of reaction?


Transformative Works

I have absolutely enjoyed learning a great deal about transformative works throughout this semester. I never knew how much of an issue fan fiction, art, and other kinds of works could  be – most people seem to focus their attention on works within the music industry. Perhaps because music is just the most visible, widespread example of potential copyright infringement, and the fact that most people listen to music every day probably accounts for more instances of inspiration stemming from original works of music. It’s actually a shame that people have to be careful when remixing music that they are not going to market for a profit. Even when it’s just done for fun, there is a lot of worry involved if you whatever you create is going to be posted on the internet. Hopefully this doesn’t dissuade people from remixing – instead, perhaps just being able to keep your work to yourself (or at least, off of the public sphere of the internet) is the safest route.

Whatever the case, I really think there is a lot to be learned from the intense amount of copyright restrictions surrounding these kinds of objects that fall into some aspect of transformative works. I agree with Lawrence Lessig when he calls for reform. The generation growing up today is certainly going to have a skewed view of the law if our copyright rules stay as they are. If there was a good way to allow freedom of creativity (for creativity’s sake) while staying within the law, we could all rest a little easier when considering the future path of expression within art, music, literature… the list goes on.

video at the link:

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/215454/january-08-2009/lawrence-lessig


Appropriation Law

photo credit: Clyde Robinson

I absolutely feel that, in terms of art appropriation, the law will never be able to adequately define the difference between right and wrong/legal and illegal/valuable and worthless. How can something determined by opinion be static? This is necessary for a good law: it should be able to be applied fairly to each situation concerning the practice. There are parts of fair use law that reference limits of appropriated pieces in a derivative art work – using percentages – but this measurable element is merely one aspect of fair use. The most serious determiner used in court cases concerning art appropriation is the presence of a message within the work. Those who cannot really express an adequate message for their work are usually punished. But how can an “adequate message” really be defined? Unless one judge with unwavering criteria for the existence of an adequate message is employed in every case, we’ll never get a consistent view. And we all know that court rulings set precedent, clarifying the law.

Many artists really have an unfair advantage when it comes to protecting their work through legal battles. A lot of issues would never come to light if it weren’t for all the resources behind some of the biggest artists, who sometimes seem to abuse their legal power – threatening everyone in sight, even if their claims are  less than sturdy.  And artists who have appropriated unfairly are unlikely to see any kind of lawsuit since the vast majority of artists do not have the funds to take legal action.


Blogging and Visuals

As the main focus of my final project is on pop art, I will need to use a lot of imagery in my argument. I had originally intended on writing a paper, but I am now considering the fact that my final project might be better if I focused on some way to display pop art that has been deemed legal vs. pop art that has been deemed illegal.  My argument has to do with the legality of pop art and the way in which that will influence the type of pop art to come; I’m starting to consider some kind of blog post incorporating images as possibly the best method.

I like the idea that visuals provide vividness to an argument: the audience can really see the line of reasoning. I definitely remember things best when they are presented visually, or if the language used is vivid enough so that I can imagine experiencing whatever is being discussed. I would actually prefer that I could describe my point and make my argument using persuasive language, but it’s hard to accurately describe specific works of art. I really think that a blog post might throw me into the conversation even more, especially if, within my blog post, I link to others’ I have found through my research who already have established credibility. I’ve not written much in the way of blog posts, but they are quite valuable when discussing things within the art world – it moves so fast, the internet is an important way to keep up.

photo: Alex Proimos


parodies are valuable, hilarious

The parody aspect of transformative works is an interesting part of fair use. According Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright and Fair Use website, to parody consists of “a work that ridicules another, usually well-known work, by imitating it in a comic way”. The law usually supports this type of transformative work. Essentially, if a judge believes that a work presented some message or commentary through a parody, the work then should be protected under law, and court cases have usually concluded in favor of those who have produced parody. It is interesting that such a type of work that imitates (appropriates) from another so wildly is one of the most protected. Perhaps we see the most obvious imitations as a subconscious indicator of good intentions – those who were trying to copy solely for the sake of ripping someone off wouldn’t imitate so openly, so plainly, would they? Of course, there are always those who will.

For a great recent example of hilarity provided by parody: NBC’s show Community. The show has parodied all kinds of well-known entertainment formats: mafia movies, Mean Girls, action movies, and clichéd sitcom formulas. Taking on entire genres, much of the amusement for the audience lies within the format of each episode. If we recognize what the writers are playing on, we are in on the shared joke: we can laugh at the formulaic qualities supporting the episode and many others before the show came into existence. Whether the mention is specific or parodying a formula, we can appreciate the nod to a previous work – a clever reference is funny to those who can catch the material below the surface. This type of work can provoke a lot of discussion: why do these formulas and popular references exist, and why are we so attached to them?

Good thing it’s (usually) protected by fair use law.

video at the link:


First blog post ever.

I especially look forward to writing this blog after reading the first chapter of ‘Everything Is An Argument”. The emphasis on the fact that most every text, in multitudes of forms, carries some known or unknown point of view is at once quite exciting and a little intimidating. One aim of this blog is to develop our writing skills as we direct our words towards a different kind of audience – I am certainly not used to writing for a potentially unknown, large audience – and I intend to fully throw myself into the task.


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