dteh on 26 Jul 2000 03:17:40 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Terror in Tune Town

ken and ted's exchanges don't beg a clarification of that property-labour
distinction. the point made (in the "poverty of philosophy") is that the
underlying differentiation between the fruits of manual labour and those of
mental labour is dissolving, a point confirmed in ample measure as early as the
1940s and later reiterated by baudrillard.  (yet i am befuddled by how
sluggishly marxists are renovating marx's own approach to this issue when it is
so pressing today)

but i find Eric's approach to all this problematic. i will try to be direct so
please forgive the quotations.

"if you take what doesn't belong to you, you're stealing."

the implications of this sort of language are a wholesale reinforcement of the
existing copyright regime. in an era where the prevailing commercial approach to
intellectual property is the 'mad-grab, attach it to everything you can'
the attributes of cultural products, some very abstract and elusive, are one by
one falling into the scope of 'property' protection.  trademarks and copyright
are currently being extended to all sorts of components of these products, from
the style of a brushstroke, to the shape of a boiled candy.

i think there are more "grey areas" than you have permitted here.  in the 1980s
the art world roundly validated (even valorized) appropriation art, parallel
with popular music's development of sampling.  in almost every case, the law's
flailing, fumbling attempts to draw the line between constructive appropriation
and theft have resulted in a wobbly philosophical scribble.  just ask an artist
to draw a line between 'influence' and 'inspiration'. hopeless.

in fact, artists have always had to tread this line.  the best of them have
tended to ignore it, though. now there's certainly a difference between sampling
some Metallica and distributing copies of it, but the moral issues are welded
together: can we really say that a home-listener's 'use' of a Metallica song is
any more or less significant at law than a DJ's? DJs have house parties and so
do ordinary fans. both can have door-charges. i also think the NRA analogy is
useless - the difference is that unfettered distribution of mp3s does not lead
to thousands of homicides.

i find your claim that "if you didn't pay for it, it isn't yours" more than a
little troublesome. try telling that to Picasso when he borrows one of Cezanne's
figures for his Demoiselles. the more you investigate the circulation of
artistic products, the more you find that "it" was never really "yours" at all,
and that there was never a time when "it" was always paid for by every user.
there was, however, a time when "it" was never paid for by any user.

couldn't it be that the concept of personal property (intellectual or real) no
less that the concept of property rights, (or "artistic diversity" for that
matter) need to undergo some fundamental changes in order to catch up with the
new distributive infrastructure that doesn't seem to be doing them justice? your
assertion that "no-one can pursue their art without any means of financial
support" oversimplifies the issue.  firstly, there have always been artists that
supported their practice with income from other work or from another's
patronage; secondly, why shouldn't artists (like every other sort of producer)
have to develop new products, or new ways of taking their products to market,
when the conditions of distribution change around them?  and couldn't this be an
exciting source of formal and/or philosophical progress on the level of the
artwork itself?

the difficult renegotiations of these concepts will not, i believe, be well
served by the bolstering of a seemingly outdated (and increasingly permeable)
set of juridical parameters. for artists, the days in which individual(s) exert
a clearly delineated and legally binding control over what "belongs" to them,
and its use by others, are over. they will have to find new ways of securing
their place in the market, probably by forming cooperative links with other
producers, groups of consumers, other professionals, and even those "pipe guys"
who we have just decided will win out.

dave teh

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