Tag Archives: plagiarism

Jonathem Lethem and other misc (probably thought of before) thoughts

Similar to RiP: A Remix Manifesto, Jonathan Lethem’s article “The Ecstasy of Influence” discusses the issues of copyright and copyleft in our ever-growing society. After reading a lot of you all’s posts about this article, I won’t bother you with the background details of Lethem’s argument. Instead, I’d rather bring up two quotes that really got my mind going when I read this essay and see what you all have to say about them.

Number one.

“Artists and their surrogates who fall into the trap of seeking recompense for every second use end up attacking their own best audience members for the crime of exalting and enshrining their work.”

This was the first quote that really struck me. Now, the topic of this statement is people who recreate an artist’s work. This is not about people downloading a song and putting it on their mp3 player. More so a person who makes a music video collage for his favorite song, or a person who parodies a song, or a person who remixes a song. The song/video is then uploaded online perhaps. And then, perhaps the music label of that artist requests that the person remove the file from online because it illegally uses their material. These people are just, as Lethem puts it, “exalting and enshrining” these songs. By alienating fans from using art a second time, Lethem argues that it takes the artistic merit out of the work. Lethem argues that “art” can be defined by the act of giving. Art is given to people. Something that is made to be sold may not be considered art. There’s a large grey area here of artists having to sell their art (or be patronized) to live, but that’s an aside point for my discussion here. I’m concerned with how the art industries are alienating their patrons (the fans, who purchase paintings, songs, albums, what have you) by telling them what they can and cannot do with the things they have purchased.

 

Consider this: producers of Shakespeare plays commonly revamp the scripts by changing the setting or time of the plot. Romeo and Juliet in current day Manhattan as children of mob-bosses. Othello and Iago as business men. Etc, etc. We don’t consider these adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays as copyright infringements. I think it would be safe to say that most people consider them artist trial and errors, or at least as ways to reinterpret and offer Shakespeare’s plots (which are taken from older plots anyway. But that’s another post). What is so different about someone remixing a song?

Number two.

“If we devalue and obscure the gift-economy function of our art practices, we turn our works into nothing more than advertisements for themselves”

I think this is really where the art industry is taking us, and it loving the journey. I stated in an earlier post that now-a-days you don’t necessarily just buy an album of music. Instead, you buy a brand, an image, a gimmick, a cool factor. Essentially, you buy an advertisement for the record label. The sad thing is that corporations and companies are more than happy to turn art into ads in order to make a dollar for themselves. Why do you think music labels fight so hard against an artist when they want to release a free album. That promotes a change in the industry the labels don’t want.

 

This is turning into a very long post so I’ll cut it here. To make my long post short, I loved Lethem’s article, and I’m totally on board with the copyleft movement! 😀

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Shakespeare would have failed Creative Writing 0350

A fellow classmate of mine (wacrant2011) made an intriguing post a few days ago. He was shining some light on plagiarism, the dreaded enemy of academia it seems. We in academia have preached about plagiarism for years. “You will fail if you plagiarize”, “Do not copy others works without citing”, and “Plagiarism will result in an immediate ‘F’ or a ‘0’ ” are all common things heard on campuses. Here’s the problem though: most great poets are plagiarists. For example, many of Shakespeare’s plays are based on other authors works or older legends For example, have a look at the plot sections of these articles on Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and King Leer. They’re all based on someone’s work. That’s right people. If William Shakespeare were in college today, he would fail Creative Writing for plagiarizing.

However, we don’t discredit Shakespeare for this. We herald him for the way he took older texts and revamped them; he made them true masterpieces. So, if Shakespeare took older works and added to them, he remixed them. Much the way music artists today remix music. Though I don’t think any of the Italian poets Shakespeare copied would have been ready to sue him into submission. You see, traditional poetry has a history of copying, adding to, and recycling texts. Traditional poets were expected to write their own version of classical stories. How well the poet remixed it displayed his skill. We’ve lost that kind of sharing in our culture today. We make a song and it is ours. No one elses. Not even the song notes. RiP: A Remix Manifesto discusses this issue of copyrighting and legal rights among the movie/music industry. Have a look at the film (you can watch it for free) and see what you think. I think Shakespeare had the right idea. If William Shakespeare can remix a story into a time-honored masterpiece then why can’t musicians. It’s the same thing. I’m going to leave you all with some songs to listen to and consider if it’s plagiarism or creating anew from old.

 

Compare:

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Annnnd compare:

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Plagiarism? Reinvention? Rock and Hiphop!?

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