What it is, is stealing.

I took a vow around the beginning of the year, which I may have mentioned but probably haven’t: No more copyright infringement. I’ve decided information may want to be free, as the nitwit saying goes, but the people who gather, package, contextualize and otherwise prepare information for public use need to be paid, because otherwise? No more information. So I thought about it a while, and made myself a personal fair-use policy, which is:

I will quote no more than three or four paragraphs of someone else’s writing, and will always provide a link back to the original source. Sometimes I might stretch it to five (I did yesterday, on the Aeroflot story), but that’s rare. Some writers may make that difficult — hello, Mr. Albom, with your stupid one-sentence paragraphs — but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

No more copyrighted music in video pieces, except in short, incomplete pieces. I’ve decided that “short” = “less than 30 seconds,” although I think the legal standard might be less than that — 15 or 20. I’ll ask a lawyer the next time I see one (which may be for lunch today, if Michael’s not tied up). I used a piece of “Optimistic Voices,” from the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack, in one of my auto-show videos, and cut it off at 29 seconds, which is probably too much, given that the song is only 1:11, but bear with me, because I’m groping toward a solution.

Photos are more problematic. Hot-linking — that is, providing a photo on one site by embedding a link that slurps it from another — is generally considered bad ‘net manners, on the grounds it’s bandwidth theft. I’ve done it in the past, but I’ve decided not to anymore. Wikipedia is very helpful in providing creative-commons pictures, as is Flickr, but honestly, I’m flummoxed more often than not. Presumably Yahoo news photos, which are out there with credit lines, are free to use; certainly everybody does so. But I try to avoid them, because it seems wrong somehow. (Violation of self-imposed rule coming in: One paragraph.)

All of these rules are imperfect and fluid, but I want it on the record that I’m trying. If the new-media economy is going to be based on theft, I want no part of it. I also freely acknowledge I’ve been a sinner in the past, but in the future I’m going to walk the path of righteousness. I’m also paying more attention to the discussion of these issues in the culture, because I’m hoping we see some resolution soon, either through peaceful negotiation (unlikely) or a blood-on-the-floor lawsuit (more likely). Which brings us to today’s news, that the Associated Press has filed suit against Shepard Fairey, described as an “L.A. street artist,” for his use of one of their photos as the basis for a poster you might recognize:

CORRECTION Obama Poster

Fairey found Manny Garcia’s picture, he has acknowledged, through Google Images. Then he “remixed” it, as the fashionable term has it, and rode it all the way to the Smithsonian. Now AP is saying, um, no, and wants to be compensated for its source material.

I hope they win. I don’t want to see Fairey sued back to the Stone Age, but I’m growing weary of remixing. The remixers — Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University is the most prominent — pop up on every third talk show these days defending this sort of thing. Remixing is the doorway to the next generation of creativity, they say; free the content and let today’s Photoshop artists, video editors and other nimble manipulators of technology show us the bright, bright future.

In other news at this hour, the original Fairey Obama portrait was purchased for the distinctly old-media price of $75,000, payable to? Shepard Fairey.

Here’s what I want to hear from the remixing crowd: An argument that doesn’t include the phrase “increased exposure.” Because that, they say, is what should be keeping Manny Garcia warm at night, the fact that so many more people have seen his picture than would have before. I guess Garcia is supposed to pay his mortgage with exposure, too, but I’m not sure that’s quite legal tender yet. Some people may live for exposure, but I require regular cash injections. Lawrence Lessig can give his book away because he has a nice secure job at Stanford paying his bills. The AP can distribute its content because it has clients who pay for it. Fairey didn’t pay a dime. He needs to, now.

I’m not a total philistine on this; I mean, I get it. I understand sampling, and collage, and all the rest of it. But when those rappers in the ’80s sampled Van Halen and James Brown, they quickly met the law firms representing these earlier artists, and had to put some cash down in payment for those catchy hooks. I fully acknowledge that use of one piece of art in another can be beneficial to the original artist; I hear most of my new music these days in car commercials and the like. But as an amateur filmmaker I know that if we tried to put a Stevie Wonder song in one of our movies, we’d hear from Berry Gordy. (Someone did that for Zombie Night — used a Beck song in his movie. I asked him about it in the Q-and-A, and he said, “Well, I sent him a letter asking for it, and I haven’t heard back, so I guess I can use it until he says no.” Everyone snickered. That was about the time I started formulating my new policies.)

Copyright violation is theft. We may well need to revisit the old rules that no longer make sense in today’s digital world, but until the rules change, it’s still theft. For a harsher take on what happens when information wants to be free, see this NYT story, about the losing battle against digital piracy in Hollywood:

The files are surprisingly easy to find, partly because of efforts by people like Mohy Mir, the 23-year-old founder of the Toronto based video streaming site SuperNova Tube. The site, run by Mr. Mir and one other employee, allows anyone to post a video clip of any length. As the site has grown more popular, SuperNova Tube has become a repository for copyrighted content. On a recent day, the new movies “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Taken” could easily be found on the site by following links from other sites, called “link farms,” which guide users to secret stashes of copyrighted content spread around the Web.

…The piracy problem, however, does seem to weigh on him. He removed a copy of the movie “Twilight” from his site after a reporter pointed it out to him recently. “I think about getting sued every day. If that happens it will definitely take us out of business,” he said.

Good. Take him out of business. When professional filmmakers are driven out of business by piracy, we can all watch YouTube videos of laughing babies. Can’t wait.

Anyway, that’s my policy and I’m sticking to it. Any thoughts?

Posted at 10:35 am in Media |
 

49 responses to “What it is, is stealing.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Ego te absolvo, Nancy, go ye and sin no more, your sins are forgiven you.

    There is a rolling debate going on among clergy about preaching and sermons — i recently was handed a long essay off of Preaching Today that i thought was just a long winded version of “everybody does it.” The fellow who gave it to me, having heard me speak with asperity on the growing prevalence of “swiped, unattributed sermons” said “so what do you think is an acceptable standard, Jeff? It’s so complicated.”

    My answer — it isn’t complicated unless you’re trying to excuse what you know is wrong (blanched startled face stares back at me). If you are using words strung together in essentially the same selection and order (no, changing a few adjectives or adverbs doesn’t matter), you should verbally acknowledge at MINIMUM “in my reading on this, i found it put this way…” or heading a section of your message with “i’ve found Max Lucado’s viewpoint very useful on this…”

    And if you don’t echo any sentences, but the whole flow is step by step from someone else, that fact should be mentioned. Otherwise, you are presenting yourself as having put forth effort and spent time that week that in fact you did not.

    But if you use a personal anecdote, saying “then i went down the hospital corridor” that is from your source and you put yourself into it directly, you should be flogged.

    His response? “Boy, you sure are a hard nose on this, Jeff.” He would not have called me mild-mannered that afternoon.

    What’s worse is that preachers are just plain stupid about stuff like Google, and don’t realize that when they say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you can type the phrase in, and read the whole sermon from 1998, and then they come walking into the next board meeting waving the print out.

    Hurrah for your hard nose stand, Nancy.

  2. whitebeard said on February 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Bravo for your stance, Nancy (if I am permitted to call you by your first name) I like that kind of resolve.
    I aggregate auto industry news, about four or five graphs each, and I credit each source in a weekly freelance newspaper column I do and I have talked with some of my sources and they say it is OK as long as they get credit.
    I will be extremely interested in your experience on this quest.
    Thank you for your experience, Jeff. I have spoken to various groups and I never have a set script. I twist and turn with my words, depending on the degree of glaze in the eyes of the audience. If someone yawns, I respond with something outrageous and then try to justify it.

  3. vince said on February 5, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I wonder what Andy Warhol would say.

  4. jeff borden said on February 5, 2009 at 11:08 am

    The academic policy where I teach calls for immediate dismissal of students who plagiarize. On the first day of class in public speaking, I codify the rule that any mention of the work of others must be acknowledged both at the time it is stated (in the speech) and in a bibliography at the bottom of their speech outline.

    These folks have been raised on swapped files and shared information, so I try to relate the unattributed use of the work of others to how they’d feel about the theft of their iPod or bicycle. In that context –where the theft is not an intellectual exercise– they get it.

  5. nancy said on February 5, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Me, too, Vince.

    Funny you should mention news aggregation, WB. That’s my part-time job, which I’ve been doing for three years now — collecting news and repackaging it for corporate clients monitoring their business. The company, and the clients, pay stiff licensing fees to do so.

    One of the sources I check every 30 minutes or so is Google News. Our clients want their information from “legitimate” news sources, but it seems Google’s algorithm stretches the definition of legitimate, and at least once a week I stumble across a site whose business model consists of stolen photos, lightly rewritten wire-service copy, “tag clouds” to attract search engines and approximately one million blinking ads. This, I’m convinced, is what’s behind all those ads on Craigslist seeking writers willing to turn around 400-word “articles” for $15. Change a few lines, cut and paste, and voila — you’re in the news business. It’s maddening. If I have time I send them e-mails pointing out the amazing similarities between their “entertainment reporting” and that of, say, Entertainment Weekly, cc’d to the latter. Assholes. They will ruin the internet.

  6. brian stouder said on February 5, 2009 at 11:18 am

    The saying “information wants to be free” strikes me as almost too-cooly bland (even celibate).

    “information”? Photographs and essays and movies and music is “information” in the same way that my home is gypsum and wood. One can collect all sorts of free wood (after an ice storm, for example), but that doesn’t entitle a horde of vandals to rip my home apart.

    The debate at Mitch Harper’s blog about the possible demise of the NY Times (and by extension, print media) took another absurd turn the other day after Andrew Jarosh pointed out (rightly) the odds against getting a reliable report about, say, a county commissioner meeting, if we have to depend on random bloggers committing to showing up and clearly reporting on the proceedings; which earned AJ an “ed. note” arguing that we can indeed!

  7. Cara said on February 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Nancy,

    Good thinking, great policy.

    One of the ‘SWIPE’ phrases put it succinctly; “Steal With Integrity Practically Everything”.

    Nobody took time to explain exactly how to commit theft with integrity. Perhaps ‘Impunity’ would have been a better word to use in this acronym?

  8. Jolene said on February 5, 2009 at 11:31 am

    A propos of nothing in particular, here’s a nice article about Eric Holder, our new AG. Some interesting details re his family history (e.g., his father served in the segregated military in WWII), his professional history, and the complex history of DOJ w/ regard to race. http://tinyurl.com/bbsuqa

  9. Lex said on February 5, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Nancy, how would you feel about this remix?

  10. nancy said on February 5, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Two words, Lex: Awe and some:

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners…

    See, even a non-discerning eye like mine knows the difference between theft and art.

  11. LA Mary said on February 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I’m so ready for the movie of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’m thinking Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.

  12. Sue said on February 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    An article in The Guardian (“Jane Austen Fleshed Out With Zombies?”) included a comment section that soon turned into a riff on various other classics, including:
    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night…Of the Living Dead, Victor Hugo’s Les Zombies Miserables and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse…for BRAIIIIIINS,
    One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty-Four Zombies, Catch 22 Zombies, Tess of the Zombies, Love in the Time of Zombies,
    CS Lewis and Voyage of the Dawn-of-the-deader, Franny and Zombie, The Naked and the Undead, Breakfast on Tiffany’s Brains, East of Brain Eating,
    and my favorite, Great Eviscerations. AND OF COURSE, the comment section had to begin with the following:
    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a dead man in possession of a flesh-eating habit, must be in want of a bullet to the brain.”

  13. Jonathan said on February 5, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Have you read “Freedom Of Expression® : overzealous copyright bozos and other enemies of creativity” by Kembrew McLeod. Some interesting worst case scenarios here. I do understand all about this copyright thing, as someone who used to work for Infocom, probably the most pirated software game company in history (eventually helping its demise). Very hard.

  14. Dexter said on February 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Great lurking here today. I try to grasp all I can on this subject since I caught hell for using a photo from Google Images for a blog icon for my name. My friend gave me holy hell and said I was going to be hearing from a bevy of lawyers…well…never happened…I found the photo belonged to The Library of Congress, as I recall, and requested permission to use it. I wrote to them and of course never got any response.
    I blog extensively on blogs where , if one does not document a charge or quote, he gets ignored or chastised, every time.
    The host ( a long time TV personality and magazine columnist)
    demands we only copy short introductory leads to a link to the original message; he says that way the author “gets credit” for it…I am still figuring that out…more pay? more status? a feather in his cap, noticed by his editor?
    I do know there are engines that search for undocumented theft of content. Once on my blog I printed a short little story from another’s blog…he was e-notified, but then thanked me because I had thanked him on my blog for letting me use the story.
    Once I quoted a one-sentence bit of information from a story and linked it back to the author, and got this scary message when I clicked back on to that site…a large skull and crossbones , howling storm-noises, and a flickering message “BANDWITH THEFT IS ILLEGAL!!!!!!!!”
    Geez! That dude was serious!

  15. beb said on February 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve always felt that anything posted on the Internet will eventually be stolen so one should never post on the Internet something they don’t want stolen.

  16. mark said on February 5, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Prayers for Justice Ginsberg. While I am on the opposite side of the Constitutional spectrum, her opinions (that i have read) were principled and well-reasoned. She is predictable, in a good way. From what I have read and observed, she is collegial and hard-working.

    Our new president is busy enough. He could use a little break before we all engage in the farcical process of watching good judicial candidates prostitute themselves intellectually to satisfy one side or the other of the abortion issue.

    A quick and full recovery to you Justice Ginsberg.

  17. Gasman said on February 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I have at least four dogs in this copyright fight: I’m a composer, performer, recording engineer, and a college faculty member. I have developed a fairly high degree of intolerance for those who violate copyright laws. I’ll be damned if I will sit by while others steal what I have created. True, at present the internet is in its Wild Wild West stage of development, but that does not justify simple theft. That it is easy to steal from others anonymously via the internet does not make it right or legal.

    In my college classes I have confronted students who have plagiarized material. They nearly all displayed an incredibly lackadaisical attitude toward any concept of intellectual property. It usually takes an “F” and/or the threat of expulsion to get their attention. It makes me very doubtful regarding the state of our national character. It’s no wonder at least half the country couldn’t give a damn that our ex-vice president used the Constitution to wipe his ass. If we as a nation aren’t troubled by a president who authorizes torture, can we reasonably expect concern over low level electronic shoplifting?

    However, I am of mixed minds regarding Fairey’s Obama image. In classical composition, we have the long standing tradition of Theme and Variations and Quotation. As a composer, I am free to quote any copyrighted material and not pay a dime of royalty, IF it is clear that everything else in my work is original and if the non-original material is a but a small portion of the work. I’m not sure what standards visual artists employ. This is one of the problems with cheap technology. It’s incredibly easy to churn out this kind of “product” that is little more than repackaging the work of others.

    How do we stop it? As I’ve said before, a few heads on very visible pikes works wonders. If you fail or expel one or two plagiarists from a class and the word gets out, it is really amazing how attentive the students become to ethics. Likewise those who thieve via the internet. If theft is prosecuted and punished as such, it will have a deterrent effect.

  18. Alex_B said on February 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Check out Lessig’s end-of-Remix-book-tour interview. Talks about Colbert and what’s next for his research.

    Trailer: tinyurl.com/b3k62q
    Full length: tinyurl.com/co4ktr

  19. David H said on February 5, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    When I was in college I picked up a wonderful collection of parodies called “The Book of Sequels”. Some of them were extended pieces, like “Moby Dick II: Raise the Pequod”, but some were more ephemeral. One of my favorites is a mock-up of the cover of a Signet Classics paperback purporting to enclose a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” called “Pride and Extreme Prejudice”, with a painted portrait of Eliza Bennett wearing a nice Empire-waisted dress and wielding a .357 Magnum.

    It still makes me giggle just thinking about it.

  20. nancy said on February 5, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    My standard on the Fairey piece is this: What would it look like if you took the source material away? I mean, clearly he did his own reinterpretation of the image, but it owes a very, very big debt to Manny Garcia. That’s why I consider it roughly akin to sampling rock guitar licks in hip-hop. I wouldn’t want to see him taken to the cleaners, but he needs to cough up some tribute. SOMEONE ELSE built the cornerstone that work of art rests on.

    Dexter, I was under the impression that Library of Congress archives belong to the taxpayers and are, by definition, in the public domain. I could be wrong.

    I’m not advocating that we throw the book at fan-fic writers or the people who keep dreaming up new subtitles for that Hitler-movie scene, but when you start cashing fat checks for your remix, it’s time to thank the little people who made it all possible.

    Oh, and Gasman: One of the pleasures of no-budget filmmaking is exploring those creative-commons sites for movie music. I had no idea there were so many people willing to throw their stuff out there for anyone to hoover up.

  21. jeff borden said on February 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    With the cancer diagnosis of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the more loathesome wishes of Ann Coulter comes true: a liberal Supreme Court justice has a very, very serious illness.

    And this worthless, screeching harpy has another best-seller. Is this a great country or what?

  22. LA Mary said on February 5, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Someone gave me a book called, “The Satanic Nurses.”

  23. moe99 said on February 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=6806414

    abc lays claim to being the most idiotic MSM ever.

  24. Catherine said on February 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I was with you right up to the Fairey image and the photo from which it was “taken.” From what I can tell, an artist could have produced that artwork by drawing freehand from any one of dozens of photos, which would not have been by any stretch copyright infringement. Barack Obama was one of the most-photographed people of 2008 (sorry Britney), and I don’t think that photo is an iconic or unique image. It’s the artwork that got disseminated so widely, not the photo, and it’s because the artwork is unique and evocative.

  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Quick, go to Google Images and click on the first three hits for “obama head shot” and i think you’ll see that, while all of the same guy, Fairey’s AP shot is distinctive.

  26. Jolene said on February 5, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Nancy: The cover article in this week’s TIME is about saving newspapers. By Walter Isaacson. Could be good. See http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1877191,00.html

  27. Gasman said on February 5, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Nancy,
    I’ve turned down work as a composer for TV and film. Why? Because you do not retain rights to your work. Once you are finished, rights to the music transfers to the production company. They then can do whatever they want with the music. If they wanted to use my music for a porno soundtrack I couldn’t say boo.

    That is also why I don’t have anything posted on the web on a personal site. I have to figure out how to hawk my services without making it available for anyone to pirate at will. I like to retain control of that which I create.

    I have no problem with those who wish to give their creative services away. However, I retain the right to NOT do so myself. When employing musicians, I have found that qualitatively you generally get what you pay for.

  28. basset said on February 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    One more approach… look at mobygratis.com, where someone who I understand is a fairly well-known and successful composer and performer allows a limited selection of his music to be used in nonprofit films free of charge.

    and there is a YouTube channel for those films:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/MobyGratis

  29. nancy said on February 5, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    But Fairey admits he made the poster from the photo, so the question of whether he could have done it freehand is moot, no?

    And I’d argue there’s something about that photo that carries the day — the pose, the gaze, the moment, whatever. He did another poster for the campaign — there are so many parodies out there, I can’t tell which one is the original, using a provided photo, and it just isn’t the same.

    I suspect, like a lot of remixers, he thought he could remain below the radar. But when the poster became an overnight sensation and he was looking at a spot in the Smithsonian, suddenly he had a problem. If Tone-Loc hadn’t had a hit with “Wild Thing,” I’m sure Eddie Van Halen wouldn’t have cared that they stole the lick from “Jamie’s Crying.” But alas.

  30. Catherine said on February 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    The photographer didn’t even recognize that his photo had been quoted. Doesn’t that say something about how far the artist took it? The artist originally created the work for charity, not for profit, and other than the Smithsonian $$, has not seen a dime for it. AP picking this incident as a test case smacks of them looking for the deep pockets, not the clear-cut infringement, and as such seems pretty feckless to me.

  31. paddyo' said on February 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Nice timing and a very good thread, gang. Where ever did the (fairly) reliable old doctrine of “fair use” get lost? I have to admit, I got pissed the first time I tried to cut-and-paste a page from one of those non-cut-and-pastable samples of books and other for-sale material online. How dare they expect me to BUY that! . . .
    Ditto for the scientific journals and such that expect you to join up, pay up, for the privilege. It shows, I guess, how much we’ve been lulled (brainwashed/ programmed/ etc.) into that “all information wants/needs/yearns to be freeeeeeee” utter BS. Oh, wait — oh yeah, I used to work for a NEWSPAPER, and we know how almost all of them give it away, don’t they. Huh.

    Anyway, in my new post-newspaper life in public affairs for a federal agency, one of my daily duties is to round up the previous day/night’s agency-related stories and items in the news and e-mail them out to the bosses in the regional HQ where I work, and to their top managers in the field.

    Until a couple of weeks ago, I laboriously cut-and-pasted every headline, byline and story (from the Web of course . . . mostly newspapers, but some mags, blogs, TV and radio sites occasionally, too) into that email, and rarely thought much more about this act of theft.
    Hey, I was just following the example of the top public affairs guy at HQ back in DC, who cuts and pastes individual stories into individual e-mails and sends them out to the public affairs gang in the field. A very common practice that I ratcheted up, just here in my own regional circle, with the help of Google Alerts and searches.

    And truth be told, to us cut-and-paste guys, it wasn’t different from the same practice in personal e-mails, sending along this or that neat thing from the Web (instead of just a URL, clickable or otherwise), was it?

    I’d been thinking in recent weeks that this wasn’t right (duhhh, Pat — look at that “copyright” at the bottom of most of those stories you were e-mailing, buddy), and maybe I ought to start doing the right thing in this regard. And hey, a lot easier and less time-consuming than the cut-and-paste game, too.

    So better late than never (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa), I now e-mail a daily dispatch that is strictly a list of headlines (and when needed, brief synopses) with clickable links to the original news sites where the stories come from. That way, at least everybody to whom I send it must go to each website and endure whatever marketing/advertising/etc. gantlet it has in order to check the information. I mean, it’s only fair — and until the successor to the Internet comes along (either implanted in our brains or built into the dashboards of those flying cars we were supposed to be driving this decade), it’s the way they make their coin . . . and the way the original information ought to be treated.
    Call me the prodigal ex-thief . . .

  32. JGW said on February 5, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Well Kelloggs dropped Michael Phelps….

    Way to alienate half your clientele. I was always confused my Doritos had the “Just say No,” messages. Wouldn’t that decrease the need for Doritos?

  33. Gasman said on February 5, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    basset,
    Thanks for the mobygratis.com link. It’s an interesting approach. I might end up allowing short 30″ audio clips as playback only, no downloading. This would at least make pirating a bit more cumbersome. I’m also facing the problem of not being able to post original compositions online if the recordings have A.F.M. union members playing on them. I’d have to retroactively pay them at a higher scale. I’d expect that consideration if I’d been hired as a player, but it does make it difficult for me as a composer.

  34. Deborah said on February 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Appropriation is a major theme in contemporary art, see Andy Warhol, Barbara Krueger, Jeff Koons etc. Shepard Fairy’s whole career is based on breaking the law, his Obey Giant series of posters/graffiti, were about artist as outsider. This is what he does, this is what his art is based on. This is an art genre. Check out this Wikipedia explanation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appropriation_(art)

  35. brian stouder said on February 5, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I gotta say, the octuplet mom is hot! not that I’d touch her with a 10′ pole (so to speak)

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29038814/

    “Borrowed art” looks to me like scrapbooking; and scrapbookers at least pay (and pay and pay and pay!) for their elements!

    If an artist wants to “borrow” something that the owner didn’t agree to “lend”, that constitutes theft, if the word “theft” has any meaning, at all

  36. basset said on February 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    ran across mobygratis.com when I was working on a (gratis) project for an environmental group and just got tired of the same old canned production music… it’s been on that Moby channel since last November and is all the way up to 64 views (that’s sixty-four, not 64-thousand), I am so proud.

    guess if I put “bassets gone wild” or something in the subject line I might get a little more business.

    maybe “six t*ts” would do it…

  37. joodyb said on February 5, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    another tangent:
    why would anyone assume matter cut and pasted is unsullied? i find it darkly hilarious that users pick up info and run with it (anyone wanna start a dead pool on the first WebMB fatality?). the whole concept of documentation flies out the window. how many incarnations of cut&paste are you looking at? which goes back to the premise: some skilled reporter/researcher checked something out, but we’re long from knowing any of his/her 5 Ws. where is thinning of documentation so sanctioned at the root? academia? doesn’t anyone demand footnotes? when there aren’t any more graduate students we won’t need legitimate source material, i guess.
    meanwhile, back at the ranch: the F word – furlough – is the new mid-quarter stimulus package at my rag.

  38. Rana said on February 6, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Coming in late to the party – I’ve got several dogs in this hunt, as I’m an academic, a writer, a blogger, and a photographer.

    My general feeling is that if one’s doing more than citing a brief excerpt and linking back (or the textual or visual equivalent) then one really ought to ask permission, and be gracious if it is denied.

    I don’t mind quotations – though, as I always remind my students, quoting alone doesn’t get you off the hook. If you’re going to quote something, you need to justify it’s inclusion in your piece – and that justification may well take more time and effort than simply coming up with your own take on the matter.

    For me, where the borrowing becomes a problem is when it (a) distorts the original work but not sufficiently to become a new work (as when someone cuts and pastes an argument so that it makes a point different than the one the original author wanted); (b) cheats the original producer out of recognition or monetary recompense; (c) is passed off as one’s own work.

    So I don’t mind someone displaying one of my photos so long as they leave the watermark intact and provide a link back to my site. If they hotlink, that’s another matter. If they try to pass the picture off as their own work, that’s definitely unacceptable. If they try to sell it without my permission, and I find out, I’m involving lawyers. Ditto with my writing.

    Limited use that doesn’t damage my own ability to make a living off the fruit of my creativity, and which respects the effort and time I put into it, I have no problem with, whether it’s a visual work or a textual one.

  39. Gasman said on February 6, 2009 at 12:51 am

    basset,
    When I was an undergrad a fellow music student and I were coming up with ultimate band names. His choice: “Free Roast Beef.” You know, “Saturday at noon, Free Roast Beef!” My choice: “Free Beer!” You would undoubtedly draw huge crowds, they’d be disappointed and angry, but they would be large. Hmm, on second thought, intentionally drawing huge angry crowds might not have been a good marketing strategy.

  40. basset said on February 6, 2009 at 8:22 am

    “Free Beer,” I think it’s been done

    I always thought “Duke Tumatoe and the All-Star Frogs” was a pretty good name… back in the Seventies when we’d see that kind of thing. I still look at the club listings in our local entertainment paper just to see what weird names are out there, it’s become a dinner-table tradition on Wednesday nights… “Hmmm, this weekend we can see the Alcohol Stuntband, Apathy Edge, or Here Come the Mummies…”

  41. coozledad said on February 6, 2009 at 8:44 am

    basset: I DJ’d briefly at a college radio station just to have access to their catalog. You had to read a few PSA’s, which were printed on 3×5’s and kept in a small box by the mixing board. You’d just pick one at random and read it after the station ID.
    I started absently reading one about a benefit concert for a local musician with MS. The headline act was a band performing music from their new CD “Buford’s Last Pusser”.

  42. beb said on February 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I was put off from responding earlier by Nancy’s righteous indignation but I think there other sides to this issue and that the AP is not, perhaps, the best example to make a stand with.

    Copyright is a claim of ownership and currently for organizations it lasts for 95 years (life+95 years for people writing for themselves). And is Disney has its way, copyright will be extended forever. At which point someone will be exerting a claim for every word ever spoken. We won’t be able to use Mark Twain’s “The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.” without paying someone for the right. We won’t be able to say “all we have to fear, is fear itself” or “who knows what lurks in the hearts of men…” or “Shut the f…. up” because someone will own those words.

    Now this may seem extreme but one thing I’ve seen from reading the techie new aggregator, Slashdot.org is that companies have been seeking patents on just about everything under the sun. And increasingly these patents are for things that have been out for a while but never previously patented. Amazon’s patent for One-Click on-line purchases is one example. It should never have been allowed because it is too obvious a way to manage an on-line transaction. Another example would be the attempt to patent a business model. There are companies whose sole purpose of existence is to achieve as many patents as they can, then sue manufacturers for patent violations. Creating new software becomes a minefield of pre-existing patents written so broadly that they are hard to work around or even recognize that they might apply in this particular situation. So when a news organization starts claiming a strict interpretation of copyrights on their product, that is what I think of, patent trolls.

    The AP is not the best case to make a stand on because they have insisted in the past that even five words quoted from a dispatch is a violation of fair use. There is no clear standard on what constitutes ‘fair use’ but most people, I think, would agree that quoting five words from a dispatch or quoting the headline from an article falls within fair use.

    More over what is a news but gossip, repeating things that other people have said. If the AP owns the words they produce, then doesn’t the people in the articles own the words that they said, which are being quoted. So should the AP be compensating the people whose words they are repeating? And should photographs have to compensate the people they take pictures of since they, obviously, own the rights to their own likeness?

    When the player pisano was invented the copyright laws were changed to accommodate the new reality. When rap music came about it was clear that massive amounts of copyright infringements were involved. Instead of pursuing rappers for their thefts, exemptions were made, limits for the amount of quoting allowed were established. That should be the model the AP pursues and not simply trying to bankrupt anyone they can.

  43. Gasman said on February 6, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    beb,
    Oh there were big lawsuits with the advent of rap. Several rappers had to cough up millions of dollars. They didn’t so much change the concept of musical plagiarism as they made the rappers realize that if they want to use a riff from someone else’s work, then they have to compensate the appropriate party.

    The original artists tend to love rappers using their stuff. It is just another way for the material to generate income further down the road. What they did not like was the fact that rappers thought they could steal someone else’s music and resell it with impunity.

    What is a “player pisano?” Is that someone from Frank Sinatra’s band?

  44. Hattie said on February 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    It seems like a hopeless task. You know it’s now possible to download any movie you want to see, for free. How to regulate that?

  45. basset said on February 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    “college radio: when it’s OK to be a mutant.”

    thing is, most of the people who do college radio are just screwing around until they go join daddy’s firm or whatever. gives those of us who actually intended to go to work in broadcasting a totally different perspective.

  46. Ricardo said on February 7, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    If you want music for a project, just ask a local musician to make you some. Most musicians now have good quality recording equipment in their bedrooms. I estimate that all the music you have ever heard produced only amounts to 1% or less of all the music there is.

  47. Gasman said on February 7, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Ricardo,
    I kind of take exception to the statement:
    “Most musicians now have good quality recording equipment in their bedrooms.”

    If they are teenagers they might keep recording equipment in their bedrooms. Us adults tend to keep our stuff elsewhere.

    Also, I tend to get cranky if people ask me to do stuff for free. I make my living as a musician and if you don’t ask for professional services gratis – like from your doctor, your lawyer, or your accountant – don’t expect a pro musician to be willing to do it for free. I spent as much time in school as any medical doctor – more if you count the years of lessons and practice before I went to college.

    You’d be surprise how often people ask me to play for free and seem surprised that I’d turn them down.

  48. Lex said on February 11, 2009 at 10:55 am

    U.S. copyright law is where sound legal thinking goes to die. Where nuance is called for, there is rigidity. Where rigidity is called for, you play hell to get the law enforced on your behalf. And Disney’s effort to buy itself perpetual protection is just one more example of paying off Congress a little in order to gain a hell of a lot.