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Waterfront Film Festival preview
Copyright, Culture story, Broadcast on June 8, 2007

Western Herald
Waterfront Film Festival Brings Captivating Entertainment To Saugatuck

An interview with the filmmakers on


Copyright, Culture (Remixed)
Respondent: Carolina Loyola-Garcia, for UFVA Screening 2006.

Copyright, Culture (Remixed) couldn’t come at a better time in the history of private and intellectual property in the United States: a time when artists, scholars, and independent filmmakers from all fronts are questioning, debating, and defending their right to continue a practice as old as art and culture itself: that one of appropriating, reusing, citing, and elaborating on an idea.

In this project, Farrugia and Machiorlatti focus on the art exhibit Illegal Art to bring to light the issue of copyright law and how it affects the world of artmaking. Curated and organized by Carrie McLaren, the show has been traveling through the US with quite a bit of notoriety and numerous reviews. The documentary uses Illegal Art as a start point and then goes on to the specific case of artist Joy Garnet who was involved in a lawsuit because of the unauthorized use of another artist’s image. It includes the comments of a few more artists, curators, and also an attorney who empathizes with Garnet’s perspective.

Even though this work was presented to me as a work in progress, I can clearly see the potential it has as a finalized work. It brings the issue of intellectual property into further discussion and it might have some impact in shaping the future of copyright law in the US so that it serves its original purpose of helping the exchange of ideas rather than encapsulating them.

It we see art, and therefore culture, as a continuum, as a discipline quite like science, where the achievement of one individual or collective is truly the achievement of all human kind towards the betterment of our understanding of our own species, of the world we live in and the universe, then we have to recognize the importance of free access to the information that artists generate. The knowledge created by artists of all disciplines, whether it is in the form of objects or in the form of theory, is a stream that feeds out of each other, and therefore cannot be encapsulated in rigid ownership grids where access to the flow of our visual imagery is denied, without risking the loss of what makes us human: the ability to dream and imagine.

Strict copyright and intellectual property laws are forms of censorship similar to those applied by totalitarian regimes. But then, perhaps we do live in a new form of totalitarian regime: the dictatorship of capital. What else can be expected from an economic system that values individuals in direct relationship to their spending power. The new first commandment in this capitalist era is “Profit as much as you can”, and from private property (intellectual, real-estate, business, goods, etc) profit can be made. So maybe, what needs to be challenged is the model itself. And who better than artists and intellectuals to do so?

There is a term that I heard for the first time a couple of years ago: copyleft. What is copyleft? “Copyleft is a general method for making a program or other work free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well”1 What is interesting is that in order to preserve the freeness of the work created, the concept of copylefting had to be copyrighted to ensure that something that started as copyright free will continue to be so, whether or not it is modified by the users. So by copylefting a work the author is giving it out to the community to do whatever they want to it, as long as it remains free of charge. Many artists believing in this model are now creating work and copylefting it. What most of them ask is that if the work is used or modified credit it given to the proper sources.

Now, when we see the work by Heidi Cody, who created an alphabet using letters from products of consumption another question arises: when the corporate world develops products that in quite an invasive way become part of everyday life in every household in the world, who owns the visuals, the culture, the memories associated with that product? When characters from commercial advertisement enter our dreams, our language, our families…don’t they become ours? Consumers pay for them, why shouldn’t they feel they own them in a certain way?

It certainly isn’t an easy topic, and with Copyright, Culture (Remixed), Farrugia and Machiorlatti are bringing it up for a much needed public discussion and reassessment of how far we, the people, want the corporate power and ideology to go. They are in line with documentaries such as The Corporation, Why We Fight, or even An Inconvenient Truth in that they are presenting issues that are real, that affect every one of us, but that most individuals are unaware of. It is in attempts like this one that lies some hope that things will change for the betterment of all and not just a few.