Re: [Frameworks] UbuWeb...HACKED!

From: Tom McCormack (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Oct 14 2010 - 16:39:13 PDT

There seem to be a number of competing arguments being staged here.

To start with, it’s hard to discern what Matt Helme’s argument is, since he
seems opposed to writing more than a line or two. But it’s worth pointing
out that copyright is not, actually, a “right” and it is not really a kind
of “ownership”. The assumption of copyright law - that is, what was assumed
by those who originally put it in place and has been upheld repeatedly by
the Supreme Court - is that art and ideas put out into the public are owned
by the public. The problem copyright is trying to solve is how to encourage
the production of public goods – and the solution (which may no longer be
working properly) is copyright – a limited monopoly on use, the purpose of
which is to, again, encourage the creation of public goods. So the statement
“People who did not create a work have no ownership,” is wrong historically,
according to the laws of the US. A more accurate statement would be that
“People who create a work have no ownership – they have a limited monopoly
on use meant to encourage the creation of the work they do not own.”
Obviously, corporate interests have, in the past 100 or so years, deformed
the original purpose of copyright law. One effect of this is that it has
limited artists and intellectuals in terms of the materials they can use –
another, equally alarming development, is that it has warped the minds of
whole generations of people into believing ridiculous and factually
incorrect things about “ intellectual ownership.”

As far as Ubuweb being good or bad, the question is of course: good or bad *for
whom*? Ubuweb is almost undoubtedly good for the public, good for
avant-garde discourse, good for keeping art and ideas mobile and alive. Is
it bad for certain artists? It’s possibly bad for certain distribution
models, but those models are constantly changing – the coops were for years
one model, and an inspiring one, but they may not prove to be the most
durable. One possible flaw was that Canyon apparently relied on the rentals
of a single filmmaker to a degree where when that filmmaker found alternate
modes of distribution Canyon faced closing down. I’m sure no one was
suggesting that Criterion should stop releasing DVDs of avant-garde work to
protect the Coops, right? Or that Coops should be allowed a monopoly on the
works they distribute?

I think it’s obvious that Ubu makes mistakes – their wall of shame was
tasteless, and I had trouble with the fact that they put of Treasures IV
practically the day it was released, which seemed in poor form. But what
gets my goat is this attitude – “Places like Ubu are responsible for the
economic marginalization of experimental filmmakers. I have trouble paying
rent and it’s Ubu’s fault.” This is an absurd case of transference. Overall,
I think Ubu helps sustain experimental media. Experimental media makers are
certainly going to have to come up with ingenious ways to sustain themselves
economically in the next few decades – they always have had to do this,
since the market value of experimental media is always precarious – but I
imagine that in the final accounting Ubu will be seen as playing a positive
role in this.

On the issue of poor quality - painters and sculptors have for more than 100
years dealt with the redistribution of their work thru un-ideal media. Now
filmmakers have to deal with it. As was pointed out by Beth, for now it
seems a good thing that most films are online in poor quality. It would be a
lot tougher if everything on Ubu streamed in HD. That will probably be a
reality someday, in which case we need newer forms of economic
sustainability for alternative media makers. Instead of complaining about
Ubu, we should be using this list to think up those forms!


On Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 5:45 PM, Beth Capper <email suppressed> wrote:

> Some comments:
> 1. Perhaps DVD sales have affected Canyon, but I see some differences
> between DVDs and the internet. As someone noted, the quality of the image on
> the internet is often not too hot, while on DVD, well, the Brakhage films
> look quite nice if you ask me. The bad image is perhaps more of an incentive
> to see a pristine print. And, as Jeanne Liotta noted, maybe Ubu helping to
> keep these things alive is not such a bad idea - isn't it going to become
> harder and harder to justify constantly keeping up prints etc if all the
> people that care eventually disappear? I do, however, think that the quality
> of the image shouldn't be a way of restricting access: sounds like archive
> anxiety to me.
> 2. Some of the work we are talking about is more important than just the
> individual who made it - we're talking about avant-garde work that was often
> very engaged in the political moment of its time. So there is an importance,
> over and above the individual author, that this stuff get out there and
> people continue to engage with it as they make work, and write art/media
> histories, and think about/discover/learn about the political moment.
> On Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 4:50 PM, Ret. Irement <email suppressed>wrote:
>> On Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 3:49 PM, Matt Helme <email suppressed>wrote:
>> People who did not create a work have no ownership.
>> Matt
>> Matt Helme, your incoherence consistently enrages me.
>> Donald Johnson
>> On Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 3:43 PM, Joseph Curran <email suppressed>wrote:
>>> I'm a student and I use UBU web occasionally to investigate artists I am
>>> unfamiliar with and I find it incredibly useful, the problem I suppose is
>>> not really to do with the UBU web but whether or not the people using the
>>> site are engaged enough with the art work to realize that in most cases what
>>> you are getting is at best a preview/incomplete experience. For example I
>>> have not had the privilege to be able to see one of Stan Brakhage's films
>>> shown projected but I have the digital copy of those films, which I consider
>>> to be like seeing photographs of paintings, previews that contain an essence
>>> of the actual work but not wholly.
>>> This considered it seems more a case of whether or not you are willing to
>>> trust a persons understanding of various art works, to understand that it is
>>> a resource re-presenting works of art. I don't know, maybe its a dangerous
>>> thing to suggest, but I have a sense that there is a fear of indifference,
>>> that certain works loose something through being so readily available.
>>> We are all creative beings, viewing a work is as creative an act as
>>> making a work, and so we do have ownership over that experience and
>>> therefore it can be as revelatory or as indifferent as that creative will
>>> within us is/isn't, and I would think most artists would not object to their
>>> work being involved in that process, isn't that really one of the core
>>> elements of why we do what we do?
>>> joseph
>>> london
>>> On 14 Oct 2010, at 22:04, Warren Cockerham wrote:
>>> The person that's created the work, doesn't have any ownership either.
>>> Especially, to work that can be mass-replicated. Again, they're working in
>>> the wrong medium. Maybe live performance is the thing for them?
>>> Warren
>>> Chicago
>>> On Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 3:49 PM, Matt Helme <email suppressed>wrote:
>>>> People who did not create a work have no ownership.
>>>> Matt
>>>> ------------------------------
>>>> *From:* David Tetzlaff <email suppressed>
>>>> *To:* Experimental Film Discussion List <email suppressed
>>>> >
>>>> *Sent:* Thu, October 14, 2010 12:05:18 PM
>>>> *Subject:* Re: [Frameworks] UbuWeb...HACKED!
>>>> On Oct 14, 2010, at 1:24 PM, Jason Halprin wrote:
>>>> > Do the rights and wants of the creator outweigh those of the public?
>>>> > My answer has always been that will the author of a work is still
>>>> > alive, they should maintain as much control as they desire.
>>>> I must disagree. Once an artist has presented work to the public, they
>>>> have initiated a conversation. And in any conversation, all parties
>>>> should have a certain say in the matter, some degree of co-ownership.
>>>> (Check with Habermas on this if you want to argue the point ;-) I
>>>> don't know if it's an issue of 'rights', or just decency. And I'm not
>>>> suggesting that all concerns are equal or anything goes.
>>>> Once an artist makes a work public, it goes into the heads of people
>>>> who see/read/hear/whatever it. This happens, in effect, at the
>>>> creator's invitation. An author should not have "control" over my
>>>> head, or any part of it. Most artists take reasonable positions about
>>>> their work, consistent to some degree with the idea that they have
>>>> established a kind of trust or relationship by showing it. But not
>>>> all. For example, when an artist withdraws work from view entirely, or
>>>> has it destroyed, IMHO this violates the obligation they established
>>>> with the public by inviting them in in the first place.
>>>> I would also argue that people who present artwork in public have an
>>>> obligation not just to the audience, but to the historical practice of
>>>> the form in which they work. They and their work are not isolated
>>>> monads, but part of a thread of things that have come before and
>>>> things that will come after. The past and the future should have a say
>>>> as well.
>>>> On the evidence of what's available in the video section of UbuWeb,
>>>> I'd say their present policies strike a reasonable, even fairly
>>>> conservative balance between the legitimate claims of both authors and
>>>> audiences. They don't put up just anything, and they take stuff down
>>>> if there's a complaint.
>>>> Beth Capper noted that the online availability of Cpry Doctorow's
>>>> books has not kept them from becoming bestsellers and asks:
>>>> > Could it perhaps be a misconception that forcing scarcity (esp. in
>>>> > the case of digital works) is a good business model?
>>>> There's no perhaps about it. (And I take Beth's use of 'business' to
>>>> be figurative, referring not just to financial gain, but to broader
>>>> objectives of aesthetic practice). All evidence shows that the value/
>>>> desirability of cultural products in the form of data/information (as
>>>> distinct from the value of discrete physical objects) tends to
>>>> INCREASE with it's circulation. The code for Mozilla, for example,
>>>> wouldn't have been worth anything if nobody used it. Obviously, this
>>>> is not true in all cases, and where it does apply, it is not a simple
>>>> mechanism. It is especially tricky to know where the balance is with
>>>> something like an experimental film, which is not cheap to make and
>>>> most likely has a relatively limited potential audience (compared to a
>>>> Tom Cruise movie at least).
>>>> Unquestionably, UbuWeb generates interest in the artists whose work
>>>> appears on their site, interest that would not exists otherwise,
>>>> interest that provides a variety of opportunities to artists that they
>>>> would not otherwise have. UbuWeb helps us weave different pieces of
>>>> work into meaningful historical threads, and provides a source of
>>>> inspiration for artists of the future. For that reason alone, I feel
>>>> they are fully justified in nudging art into the digital light,
>>>> instead of waiting for volunteers.
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