Re: The Politics of the Bootleg

From: Flick Harrison (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jun 10 2008 - 16:09:55 PDT

Bravo Joel. Take 'em on. I wonder if they have board insurance? I
wonder how many of them asked that question when they joined the
board? Ha ha!

Aaaahhh the stickiest subject of all. Copyright.

Artists rightly insist on "fair use" and such-like applications of
copyright law, ie. the right to critique by sample. When the artist
gets grants or screening fees, the "fair use" doctrine gets more
difficult (the moment a penny is earned, fair use becomes legally
suspect). The right of corporations to censor critics using
copyright law as a more sweeping version of libel chill is definitely
worth challenging.

But stealing directly from artists has never been a goal of the
copyleft / piracy movement. The goal of the pirates, at least when
they wave the net.freedom flag, is to undermine the power of
corporations to control culture and society. File-sharing Mickey
Mouse is a direct action designed to chew into Disney's revenue and
thus their corporate powerbase, which Disney uses to leverage longer
copyright spans and, by the by, to lobby politicians for corporate
tax breaks, oil wars and slave labour. Unaffordable health care, the
patriot act, and Fox News are intextricably tied to the apparatus of
their spectacularization: Arnold Scwarzenegger as the Hummer-driving
Carbon-taxing Governator (what Debord called a "decision celebrity"),
Kiefer Sutherland as the torturing super-agent on Fox's 24.

When Disney markets heavily-copyrighted plush toys made by starving
children, they become a legitimate target for civil disobedience.

What has Maya Deren done to earn the same treatment?

As for the idea that a poor youtube video is just a reference that
will draw attention to the original, that's fair to say. However, I
happen to make cinematic videos that are meant to be watched by an
audience who are settled in with their coffee or popcorn. Playing
with time, expectations and negative space is NOT possible on youtube
- the average viewer will say "BO-ring!" and click away instantly.
In a cinema, NO ONE is going to get up and walk out, to find another
cinema, within the first ten minutes, let alone ten seconds of
watching the file load. No one. Fest programmers, commissioning
editors etc like to believe so, but it's not true.

Those students who watch the youtube version instead of going to the
cinema at class time are selling out their education. Might as well
read the cliff notes or watch the hollywood movie instead of reading
a book for English Lit. You aren't getting the same thing, however
much you might like the Short McVersion of the artwork you're meant
to be studying / absorbing. Just because the vast majority of people
in our society prefer the copy to the original, the sizzle to the
steak, does not mean there's no difference between the two. To
imagine a student watching "wavelength" on their laptop without
switching over to email at least five times is to laugh heartily.

One of my main gigs in Vancouver is documenting / archiving theatre
performances. Why not just watch the play on youtube instead of
going to see it live? Because it's different, in too many ways to
articulate. Even a full-quality DVD, with a multi-cam edit,
projected on a big screen with surround sound, is definitively NOT
the theatre.

And further, in theatre's case, for instance, a performer who is
naked on stage, may not want naked video floating around the
internet. That, in a nutshell, is the argument why artists should be
allowed to refuse their work to appear in crappy web formats. You
might argue that it's a great compliment that their body is so
interesting that it is worth pirating. One hates to hyperbolize,
especially in the post-PC securityworld, but the argument that theft
of your artwork is a compliment, is very similar to a rapists' argument.

Ugh. That being said, the thousands of bootleg Grateful Dead tapes
are not rapes; they are cultish monuments, and the Dead would be much
diminished as a phenomena without them. The Dead aren't Disney.


For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.