:: Monday, August 02, 2004 ::

ORIGINAL POST: Sunday, July 11, 2004
BY: Eduardo Navas

As a follow-up to Ana Boa-Ventura's post of last Thursday on copyright, I would like to add yet another link to the reinterpretation of Benjamin's text," The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical reproduction." Douglas Davis wrote a short essay called "the Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction," and, like the other essays previously cited by Ana, Davis is quick to allegorize Benjamin's authority to write about the state of cultural production in the current digital age.

All the texts fall short of Benjamin's breadth and end up proving what his text actually proposes in relation to mechanical reproduction, which is that anything can be easily reproduced with new technology and objects lose their specificity to time and place, thus giving way to exhibition value over cult value. The result of this is a constant recycling of not only images, but also physical objects--not to mention ideas--that can be contextualized in ways that are mainly dependent on politics of culture, disregarding history.

Copyright in the age of the Web is fully dependent on "exhibition value," which means that intellectual property is prone to abuse by plagiarism and/or ahistorical re-interpretation. Creative Commons has done a very good job at trying to deal with this issue, as copyright laws are not always efficient for the web. However, for there to be just cultural exchange on the global network, netizens will need to understand the underlying ideologies of the gift economy that are part of the Internet's foundation. Marcel Mauss''s book, The Gift, is a good starting point to get a grasp on this mode of exchange that has been pivotal in Academic practice, and which has now been extended onto the Internet; more recently, Richard Barbrook wrote an essay that reconsiders Mauss's ideas in relation to the web.

ORIGINAL POST: Thursday, July 08, 2004
BY: Ana Boa-Ventura

At the risk of stating the obvious, a fundamental text in digital art is 1936 "The work of art at the age of mechanical reproduction.” Endlessly reinterpreted as “the work of art at the age of digital reproduction” or similar titles (check here, here or here), Benjamin’s text is still fundamental to understanding how two things so apparently distinct such as copyright law and culture are, in fact, almost symbiotically connected.

I am sure my fellow NAR editors will have a lot to say on this matter, so I will just initiate the thread of discussion here by pointing at:
- two books
- one website (you’ve got it: Creative Commons…)
- a very special End-User’s License agreement (EULA)
- a second look at a past conference.

The books:
- By Kembrew McLeod, “Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership, and Intellectual Property Law”. New York: Peter Lang, 2001.
- By Siva Vaidhyanathan: Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity. New York: NYU Press, 2004.

Early next year, another book by McLeod will be out with a promising title: “Freedom of Expression (R) : Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity.” (Doubleday is the publisher).

The website:
I am sure McLeod’s 2005 book will have heavy references to my second suggestion: Creative Commons, the team “devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others to build upon and share” (quote from CC website). Check out their “iCommons project,” which has recently made available licenses specific to the laws of Netherlands, Germany, and Brazil.

A very special EULA:
Finally, read about the breakthrough that Second Life, an online community that some may call MMORPG (as in Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) caused in the world of IP (as in Intellectual Property…) with the announcement of their revolutionary End-User’s License Agreement (EULA). A great article on this subject was published on a blog of the Yale Law School , and an excellent debate has been going on Terranova. The innovation of Second Life's EULA is in giving ownership of any object produced in the world to their authors. It will be interesting to see how this new concept of ownership of virtual property will play out in a similar world -- There.com -- that includes Nike and Levi’s stores, where the users can buy virtual clothing.

A second look at a past conference:
The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds took place in November of 2003. It was sponsored by New York and the Yale Law Schools and had Julian Dibell as one of the guest speakers. Julian (author of the classic text “A Rape in Cyberspace”) talked about Owned!: Intellectual Property in the Age of Dupers, Gold Farmers, eBayers, and Other Enemies of the Virtual State.

ORIGINAL POST: Saturday, July 17, 2004
BY: Ana Boa-Ventura

On July 10, Eduardo Navas published here an update on Steve Kurtz's situation, the strange case of an excellent artist and cofounder of one of the most important art collectives of the last decades-- the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) -- who was arrested under suspicion of bioterrorism.

Unfortunately, we tend to forget what is not in our faces24/7; and this one probably won't be on the 9 o'clock Fox News. And if you have seen Outfoxed--coming up at a theater near you, hopefully--you'll guess why.

For all of the above, I want to follow Eduardo's thread, and ask you to keep Steve very present in your minds, even after his release. That is hardly the core of the matter in this whole story.

We all know what happened to Steve. I just wanted to point out some interesting facts and postings. It's mind boggling how I googled "Steve Kurtz" in several combinations (+CAE, +Buffalo, etc.) and all I got were references to the FBI investigation. For the first 8 pages, there was not a single one devoted solely to his work. And while this is proof of the power this medium has in creating true social networks of "action," still, I thought we could devote a little of our time to know Steve's work and why he should not have been arrested.

So, and although I feel odd about it, I want to post this link to Steve's resume . It is online after all, and since the FBI matter has obfuscated online info on his work (it's just the way search engines work), it may be important for us to know Steve's academic and artistic endeavors.

Other interesting links on Steve, the CAE, and this case:

One June 3rd 2004, Jennifer Crowe posted on the nettime discussion list an email where she expressed well founded concern about the silence around Steve's case within certain art communities; she thought it might be due to the very nature of CAE's work that might be confusing people and leading them to dismiss the case as a hoax (a la rtmark's spoof type of work). Jennifer stressed the importance of posting widely that it was all really happening, in spite of how incredible it all might sound.

I hope Jennifer is right and that that was the only reason some art communities were not talking about it--and still aren't. Despite the several pages in Google that I saw before getting to the pages that truly focus on Steve's work, I am still baffled at how little we hear about this case in the main media.

For a curious take on the whole thing, I read this posting on what distances Steve Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble from other anti-globalization critiques that are common in the contemporary art world: the specificity and the non-specificity of the movement. The author notes that CAE is very specific in the proposed subversive responses to the structures of power, which include hacking and genetic reverse-engineering, but non-specific in that it's "conspiratorial."

Other NAR postings on this issue:

ORIGINAL POST: Saturday, July 10, 2004
ORIGINAL POST: Thursday, July 01, 2004
ORIGINAL POST: Wednesday, June 23, 2004
ORIGINAL POST: Thursday, June 17, 2004
ORIGINAL POST: Tuesday, June 15, 2004
ORIGINAL POST: Thursday, June 10, 2004
ORIGINAL POST: Thursday, June 03, 2004
ORIGINAL POST: Wednesday, June 02, 2004