Re: Bruce Conner's Report

From: Steve Polta (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Nov 18 2008 - 11:21:42 PST

For the record, the "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act” (aka the TEACH Act) was an act of congress which governs the use of copyrighted material specifically in *distance learning environments*. I.e. it is concerned with the electronic transmittal of such material as course readings, film clips, podcasts, images, and the like. It basically sets parameters in which such material can be used in a virtual classroom and focuses on restricting material to those with an authorized password, to be accessible for a limited time (such as the length of the class) and *not* that copyrighted stuff just be posted free to all on the internet. The TEACH Act has nothing to do with what happens inside a physical classroom. (Here's a good, if lengthy, examination:

Fair Use is Fair Use. It's basically always a guessing game until tested, on a case-by-case basis, in court. In evaluating, four points are considered: (1) the Purpose of the use (non-profit vs. for profit; is the use "transformative"; is it used in instruction; etc); (2) the Nature of the orginal (factual or creative? for example. In this case, the work is creative); (3) the amount of the work used; and (4) the impact on the work's market (or potential market).

(One interesting facet of the TEACH Act is that it requires participating institutions to compose and make available a copyright policy which is expected to contain a statement on fair use.)

I can't judge this Conner case. If the work were available for rental or purchase, point 4 might apply. But since his films are gone gone gone from distribution (ie there's no market to impact, a case could probably be made.

But if there were a *contract* somewhere governing the use, this could trump everything. For example—this I believe is true—Conner sold copies of his work on video to SFAI with the direct stipulation that they *never* be used in classrooms or public exhibition but were *only* for use in the library. And this was respected by all, faculty, library staff, everybody. And such contracts even trump fair use. I.e. if the school explicitly agrees not to permit classroom screenings of videos, then to do so is a violation of contract.

Of course, this is all legal talk, a discussion of the law (since that is what was brought up), not an expression of what I personally think is right or wrong, or what should be.

There are also such things as "moral rights" artists hold over works, essentially the rights an artist has to control the contexts of his or her work, *whether or not* he or she retains copyright, which is similar to the recent frameworks ubuweb discussion. Interestingly, however, I believe films/videos are not included as protected. I'll have to dig around for this one (is anyone cares).

As for Bruce Conner, and I've said this before, Bruce Conner was without a doubt one of the *most* controlling of his work of any artist I have ever known of. He was deeply concerned about the sequencing of his works, the distribution of his works, the display of his works, etc. (In the case of his museum shows, to say the least, this is to be applauded.) It's also interesting that for all of the use he made of others' material, unlike many many contemporary artists working similarly, I cannot think of any instance where he expressed much interest in such issues as copyright and fair use; it was like he was an artist and he did what he did, working with what he wanted to work with, and such discussions seemed not to interest him much. Unlike, say Craig Baldwin and other post-Conner makers, such issues seem to have been far from BC's aesthetic radar.

Steve Polta

--- On Tue, 11/18/08, David Tetzlaff <email suppressed> wrote:

> From: David Tetzlaff <email suppressed>
> Subject: Bruce Conner's Report
> To: email suppressed
> Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 5:31 AM
> As I must have noted on the list about 20 times already, the
> use of film works in a classroom setting is governed by a
> federal law known as the Teach Act, which explicitly states
> that such use is NOT a violation of copyright law when the
> screening is 1) part of a regularly scheduled class, 2)
> involves face to face instruction 3) employs a legally
> obtained copy, 4) is not opened to the general public, but
> restricted to the students registered in the class.
> This is a separate statute than Fair Use, although one
> might interpret the Fair Use statute to cover this situation
> as well. The Fair Use statute is a set of relatively vague
> guidelines, leaving specific interpretations to the courts.
> This makes it, as the CulStuds folks would say, a site of
> struggle. Until recently this was all on the side of the
> entertainment industry, but lately bottom up activism led by
> The Center for Social Media at American University, legal
> scholars like Larry Lessig, and academics including Henry
> Jenkins and Kembrew McLeod have succeeded in broadening Fair
> use and making the world safer for teachers and independent
> makers.
> Anyone interested in copyright should go read this right
> now:
> As i also must have noted about 20 times here already,
> independent artists who think copyright law and a
> restrictive interpretation of Fair Use protects them,
> don't understand either the law, or the political
> economy of mass produced art-works. but I don't have
> time to argue that again right now.
> I will, however, note the absolutely crushing irony, the
> total absurdity, of anyone making copyright claims about why
> one should NOT show a Bruce Conner film, given that Conner
> made most of his major works, including REPORT, using found
> footage without respect to the copyright status of the
> images he appropriated. Conner was right when he made the
> films. People who want to place restrictions on the showing
> of such work, or prevent other artists from working in the
> same manner, have their heads up their ass.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at
> <email suppressed>.


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