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Illegal Art, Illegal Imagination

Glenn Otis Brown, January 8th, 2003

An interesting piece in the New York Times today discusses “Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age,” an exhibition dedicated to works built in part from other copyrighted works — without permission.

By sign-of-the-times coincidence, I participated in a panel yesterday entitled “The Illegal Imagination,” at the Future of Music Coalition’s superb summit in Washington D.C. Co-panelists Gigi Sohn (Public Knowledge), Siva Vaidhyathan (NYU), musician Alfonzo Blackwell, and moderator Ira Glass (This American Life) and I discussed precisely the same issues. Aided by spirited audience participation (one of the many great hallmarks of the FMC gathering), we discussed hip-hop and sampling, the ever-growing world of “mash-up” media, and copyright’s influence on creativity, generally.

“Though copyright law can make for arcane discussion,” writes the Times‘ Chris Nelson, “popular culture has brimmed with the subject of late.”

And brim it will. As readers of this blog already know, few can afford to consider copyright “arcane” for much longer. Whether you’re an artist, a fan, a coder, or a casual web-surfer, knowing the ins and outs of copyright — for better or worse — is already part of getting by in the wired world. Copyright’s not just for lawyers anymore.

Glenn Otis Brown

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