Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Appropriation

Peter Friedman, a law professor at Case Western, in Ohio, writes a fascinating piece about appropriation, a subject digital artists, collage artists, film makers, musicians and most creatives are involved with. His piece on his legal blog, What Is Fair Use, touches on, among other issues, an "appropriation" of John Cage's 4:33, silent concert as well as the law suit that came from it.

Friedman writes: This attitude [about Fair Use] has led to some remarkable lawsuits. Mike Batt is a British classical composer who put together a group called "The Planets" in 2001. Their first album was called Classical Graffiti. In it Batt included a track with one full minute of silence. He said it was a tongue-in-cheek dig at a John Cage piece called 4 minutes 33 seconds which was similarly a track of total silence, albeit somewhat longer. Batt, credited himself as well as Cage with writing the piece. There would be precious few other ways to identify who the dig was directed at. Unfortunately, Batt soon found himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit from the estate of John Cage, who had died several years previous. In the trustees' view "We do feel that the concept of a silent piece - particularly as it was credited by Mr Batt as being co-written by 'Cage' - is a valuable artistic concept in which there is a copyright."

What Is Fair Use is "an ongoing exploration of issues related to copyright and fair use in our contemporary digital culture." Read Peter's piece on Appropriation. Comments here or there are welcome.

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