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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. 

That being sense I’m happy to hear related thoughts on say, Robin Thicke’s lawsuit about Blurred Lines/Marvin Gaye, Duchamp’s Readymades, or the photography work of Sherrie Levine, or the general notion of sampling in music. That is to say other discourses and histories.

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. I think that question feels relatively  “tired” but curious your guys’ feelings there.

Required Readings

That time Negativland Trolled U2 Into Suing Them by Eddie Brawley︎
Negativland: Fair Use; The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2︎

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?

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