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Spring 2021 ︎  SUNY Purchase (DES3240) ︎ Design Issues

Topic: Copyright


Warren mentioned that he talked about this specific case in Design Issues class past and it honestly had not occured to me to talk about. I remember learning about this in undergrad and thinking it was super funny. I feel the term “trolling” is a little bit strong (the written article that I linked) compared to what constitutes “trolling” in the contemporary sense. 

The other hopefully implicit idea is the actual power of graphic design. I don’t think that U2 would have sued Negativland if graphic design didn’t have an inherent power.

The main thing that I’ve been burying the lead on is the ethical question of what Negativland did. And how it has changed over time and plays out in other contexts. For example, fair use on YouTube, issues of sampling and songs that are extremely similar to other songs and lawsuits around those issues. 

I’m also including something not related to this narrative from the perspective of the designer. As we make more robust tools like typefaces we have the ability to set the terms for how those tools are used.

Required Readings

Suggested contextualizing readings/viewings 

Questions to think about while reading/viewing

  • Is graphic design powerful? Could something like this happen today and have the same level of gravity?
  • How are issues of originality and sampling different in different contexts (music, photography, etc.)?
  • Does this question (copyrighting, originality, etc.) feel relevant to you today or seem moot, in a world where Rihanna is sampling the Numa Numa song?
  • When the power dynamic is reversed (Zara and Tuesday Bassen) is that “more” wrong? Why or why not?
  • Would you want a typeface you design used for hate speech? By a multimillion dollar corporation? A polemical YouTuber? Why or why not? How are those different examples different.

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