Re: Hmmmmm

Subject: Re: Hmmmmm
From: Dennis Bathory-Kitsz (
Date: Sun May 23 1999 - 01:53:40 EDT

At 00 51 05 23 1999 -0400, Kevin Austin wrote:
>Matt is perplexed about asking permission to use things which belong to
>someone else. I learned to ask permission as a child and it just kind of
>became part of who I am to try to respect others and their points of view
>/ wishes, almost no matter how different they are from my own.

This isn't as simple as that.

We created the idea of property (both 'real' property and objects) as a
society, and extended it to reproducible objects, then techniques and
methods, and then expressed ideas in print, and eventually including all
media and transformations and storage now and in the future (as some title
page obverses will tell you!).

And what is the purpose of property? It's only by a kind of almost absurd
social consensus that infinitely replicable expressed ideas can be
construed as "property". Property serves a profit purpose, a reference
purpose, and an ego purpose. Where the first two aren't met, that only
leaves the last. (And with sampling, almost none are served by defending
'ownership' of intangible fragments that were never 'possessed' to start
with -- they're clones, replications.) That the law defines it doesn't make
it so.

I think we're all probably polite folks on this group, and probably ask
permission to use something, even that infinitely replicable gossamer stuff
of idea.

On the other hand, that same society that grants both you and Bill Gates
intellectual property rights to the tiniest fragment of an expressed brain
belch also authorizes the taking of your image and voice and financial
information without your permission, and the collecting of it on recordings
and in databases.

Confusion and dismissive behavior are embodied in -- encouraged by -- that

And there is yet another problem. What is too familiar to be attributed?
What is coin of the realm? How much of the phrases "make my day" or "you
lookin' at me" would you ask permission to quote or attribute in a short
story? Do you squirm when a paper company instructs you to say "Kleenex
brand tissues" in your novel as opposed to "kleenex" or cautions you not to
write "would you xerox this for me?," even if your novel's character
*would* say that? And when the repeated four notes of the "Twilight Zone"
theme are heard in a film or composition, the eco-dogs make sure
attribution is given and royalties paid. Is a harmony or lick or texture
that sounds familiar different from one that is unknown except to the
originator? Yup, it is, because those made familiar and wealthy can hire
bigger gorillas. It's not fairness nor politeness nor respect. It's money.

The mp3 frenzy, the Negativland actions, the free-music philosophers, the
Illegal Art productions, the Oswald and Collins plunderings -- all these
help keep the balance and highlight the absurd side of intellectual
property laws, and underscore the economic reality vs. the philosophical
flimflammery that companies want you to believe. Ironically, your
childhood-learned politeness actually assists that acquisitive process and
helps validate the legal silliness.

I prefer the opposite assumption: Use what you like until someone says
please don't. The legal-economic partnership will do both with impunity
anyway. (Ultimately, I still believe it's only a difference of power.)


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