Note: This post is based on responses to material from The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem, On the Rights of the Moltov Man by Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas, Allegory to Originality by Drew Christie, and Embrace the Remix by Kirby Ferguson
Turn the clocks back to 2011, and people are engaged in debates about whether Super Mash Bros. – the pinnacle of mashup artistry – are really making their own music or not.
It was clear the end-result songs produced by the Bros were ‘unique’ and original from either of the pieces they used. They had entirely different genres, vibes, tempos, etc. But for some it still wasn’t clear whether it was ‘original’ work just because it was unique.
In my opinion – and, as most of these materials contend – Super Mash Bros. did make truly original music. Whether or not they had the commercial rights or copyrights to make what they did is not my concern. The current state of intellectual property is broken, but so are so many other systems in this world. Jonathan Lethem suggests (among many other things) that “any text that has infiltrated the common mind” should not be subject to regulation; but I don’t see any way to draw a line in the sand on what could be ‘owned’ and what could not.
Although its not efficient, I think if someone wants to ‘adapt’ material bad enough, it will happen. Consider the Moltov Man situation as an example:
When Joy Garnett made this painting, based on a photograph by Susan Meiselas, it wasn’t a big deal until the art got famous. Once that happened, there was a tug-of-war between copyright authority, and the copyfight team who embodies the outright desire to express oneself.
I sympathize and understand Susan Meiselas copies and alterations made to her photo of ‘The Moltov Man’ take away the context and original meaning of the Moltov Man – perhaps to its detriment. Yet once you put something out into the world, I think it ought to be understood that it may be adapted, altered etc.
Lets be honest, its really only when one’s work becomes famous that you even give thought to intellect property. Here at ITP we’re not keeping any secrets about our shitty ideas. It would only be if one became a big deal that we might start to clamp down on the source code, production rules, etc. Disney and other mega-corporates are just doing what any of us would if we had a huge portfolio of homeruns.
Because in the end, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea promoted in the Allegory to Originality: that no one has ever had an original thought in their head, just a combination of “undiscovered public knowledge” as Lethum puts it.
I hope we can do the same here at ITP and create some truly “original” works! 🙂