The musical group Negativland has been at the center of copyright conversations for the last 25 years. A series of lawsuits that began with U2’s record label, Island Records, sent them “on something of a crusade to bring this issue out for public debate.” These guys literally wrote the book on “Fair Use” and coined the term “culture jamming,” so there’s probably no one better to ask about the intellectual property aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a slew of looming threats to online freedom, which is what a new interview with Negativland’s Mark Hosler does.
In the first part of the interview, Hosler states, “The powers that be, the so-called 1%, etc, the TPP is them kinda writing the rules, it’s like their wet dream fantasy of how they’d like the world to run. It all works to their advantage and to the disadvantage of absolutely everyone else. . . . It’s just so over the top, it is like a badly written sci-fi book, it’s like a cartoon version of how evil these people could be.”
Hosler and the show hosts get so fired up by the “end” of the interview, which was only supposed to last for 42Minutes (hence the name of the podcast), that it spills over into a second hour presented on a sister podcast, and that’s where things get really interesting. Mashups and remix videos have become staples of the internet, but so have Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedowns. Hosler says,“I have met with the lawyers at YouTube and they actually do know about Fair Use quite well, and they’re very pro Fair Use, they’re surprisingly progressive, but they’re playing ball with the Big, Big, Big, Big, Big, Big Boys.” He also points out an irony in making it illegal to upload copy-protected material to YouTube, considering that it already has been uploaded, all of it.
“I asked one of the lawyers at YouTube, I said, ‘Look, the only way you guys could do an A/B comparison to see whether or not someone’s video had a 5-second clip of a Harry Potter movie in it, has the entire entertainment industry given you digital copies of everything that they own?’ And they said, ‘Yes they have.’ They have terabytes and terabytes of every Hollywood movie ever made and every corporate rock record ever made and that’s how they are able to do the A/B and within seconds pull your clip down.”
Here’s a classic Negativland clip discussed in the recordings:
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