Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Down Unders

"Lets be perfectly clear that artistic practice is not on trial here in the M@W case. Only the good fortune to have made large sums of money from a song is. Whether deliberate or accidental, collage is, in a moral sense, totally legitimate. Some of humanity’s greatest artists have practiced it to telling effect as I hope this blog has shown. And they gain their artistic legitimacy by dint of the fact that their borrowed materials creates something new, works that do not attempt to pass themselves off as someone else’s work. On this basis the decision in the M@W case flies in the face of common sense and history and points to a world full of lawyers and devoid of musicians." —Graeme Downes

Men At Work lost a copyright suit this week for replaying part of the song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree." Graeme Downes of the Verlaines lays out a fine defense here (via Unquiet Thoughts).

It strikes me as particularly odd in cases like this that judges fashion themselves art critics, musicologists, basically experts on where ideas come from, when the basis for the modern legal system is precedent. Should the judge feel compelled to offer a part of his earnings to previous judges whose ideas have shaped the current copyright law? Why do we privilege the integrity of some creative acts, binding them inseparably to the right to earn money (and continue to earn money in the future), and admit that for the benefit of everyone other creative acts fall away from authorship and become part of a larger network of ideas?

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