Monday, January 26, 2015

Jan 28th Blog on Copyright

The idea, benefits, and limitations of copyright are incredibly complex. On the one hand, it promotes artists to create material knowing that will we be compensated for their work, allowing them to create more art in the future. On the other hand, it prohibits artists from building on the work of other creators. Both articles and the film had a clear bias towards diminishing the power of copyright and allowing more public access to art. Clearly the restrictions imposed by copyright law need to be placed into more reasonable bounds. The problems have gotten out of hand and it's time to take art back for the public.

Artists should totally be allowed to borrow and build upon published works. In the movie "good copy bad copy", there is a focus on one artist in particular, "Girl Talk". He takes popular and almost unknown songs changes them to the point where they are almost unrecognizable. The changes he makes to each song are so creative and drastic it's impossible to call them copies. Girl Talk should be allowed to sell his music for money. If pop music can take the same four chords and make thirty different songs, then he should be allowed to take thirty different songs and somehow magically and imaginatively turn it all into one.

There are two types of "borrowing". One in which the artist derives his art from another creator, the other being when an artist transforms an original work into something totally new. It could be argued that the former is stealing while the other is simply reshaping. The line between the two can easily become muddled if the artist did not really do anything to transform the art. For example, in the article written by Malcolm Gladwell, a criminal psychologist's story arguably stolen for a play. Events that had happened to her and even exact statements had been "borrowed" from her by a playwright. The artist did nothing to hide the distinction between the psychologist and the character. The playwright even added details to the story that the psychologist found libelous. The main distinction though that Gladwell found between the two stories were the methods of telling them. The playwright had taken words from him and the psychologist, but turned them into a completely different outlet. It is tough to determine the distinction between a borrowing derivatively and transforming and that matter should be decided on a case by case basis by courts.

The most notable misuse of copyrighted music to me is hands down the thievery and degradation of Queen's "Under Pressure". Ice Ice Baby by "Vanilla Ice" was "created" in 1989 and directly stole a lot from Under Pressure including the famous bass line that plays throughout the song. I wonder how I would feel if my work was borrowed by someone, perhaps not in the way that Vanilla Ice stole from Queen, but more like how Girl Talk uses music. Personally, I think I would be flattered and proud that someone heard my music and thought it sounded interesting and good enough to mix with something else. As long as I was not losing anything from the borrowing of my work, I would have absolutely no problem letting someone use it.

As a filmmaker, it is impossible not to be influenced and stylistic in my art. Perhaps I like the centered and clean style of Wes Anderson, the heavy stakes of action movies, and the comedy of a George Carlin. If I am influenced by all of these sources, my work is going to be similar to these different ideas. Ownership still belongs to the creator, but when there art is transformed, they deserve credit, but it is no longer their property. Copyright is a tough issue since art is wholly subjective, but there is nothing wrong with borrowing and building upon the past to create the future.

1 comment:

  1. CLARIFY: When I read the articles about the play I understood it to be that the playwright had actually not even been conscious of some of the things “borrowed’ from the psychologist’s writing (and subsequently her life). But you bring up a good point in the complication of it that “Fair Use” includes an aspect of transforming into a different medium (though some adaptations into different mediums would still be considered derivative and not transformative enough). I was just a little bit confused about your understanding of the playwright’s process (though maybe you were just taking it from the perspective of the psychologist). It seemed like some of the things that the psychologist found were stolen from her life were actually the fictional pieces that the playwright added in - they just happened to coincidentally match up!

    So - how do you tell if you are losing something from someone else borrowing it and transforming it? I think that’s one of the big questions.

    VALUE: Overall really clearly written and it definitely demonstrates some specific things you gleaned from the assigned pieces. I appreciate that you noted that the authors of both articles seem to be in favor of copyright changes. Did you find that opinion to dominate the documentary as well? One thing I found interesting in the one of the “Everything is a Remix” episodes is the idea that often when we want to create something we are in favor of copying as a part of the creative process, but when we are the original artist whose work was transformed we want to fight for our rights. Worth checking out (think it’s episode 3).

    CONCERNS: What about the ways in which some other countries view and deal with copyright? There was a lot more in the documentary that you didn’t touch on and I’m curious your thoughts.

    So you think that it should be decided upon by a case by case basis, which is technically what happens with most cases of copyright infringement, but one of the issues in the music industry is that one case ended up setting the bar for how sampling work legally has to happen (paying copyright holders on recording and publishing rights). Are you saying you think that shouldn’t be - that they should change it go back to case by case for music as well? One of the other complications is the fact that often times the cost to try and fight a lawsuit from a big company is so great they prefer to just settle out of court anyway - so even going case by case may not end up helping the smaller artist. I’m wondering if you’ve thought about that at all.