Posted tagged ‘recombinance’

Prelinger Manifesto: On the Virtues of Preexisting Material

February 23, 2010

Rick Prelinger, a force in internet archiving, is also the author of this useful manifesto On the Virtues of Preexisting Material, in which he outlines 14 Principles for using preexising works to make new work:

1 Why add to the population of orphaned works?
2 Don’t presume that new work improves on old
3 Honor our ancestors by recycling their wisdom
4 The ideology of originality is arrogant and wasteful
5 Dregs are the sweetest drink
6 And leftovers were spared for a reason
7 Actors don’t get a fair shake the first time around, let’s give them another
8 The pleasure of recognition warms us on cold nights and cools us in hot summers
9 We approach the future by typically roundabout means
10 We hope the future is listening, and the past hopes we are too
11 What’s gone is irretrievable, but might also predict the future
12 Access to what’s already happened is cheaper than access to what’s happening now
13 Archives are justified by use
14 Make a quilt not an advertisement

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Best Practices for Fair Use

May 18, 2009

American University’s Center for Social Media has released a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video [PDF]. This is one in an extensive series of fair use guidelines documents.

There were a few of interesting things I noted about these guidelines. One of them was that the panel generally broke with mythical notions of isolated auteurship and instead recognized the unbroken tradition of appropriation in the production of culture. For another, these guidelines specifically recognize recombinance and juxtaposition as a valid form of expression in itself. The authors note that appropriation should be covered by fair use standards in cases where, “QUOTING [is employed] IN ORDER TO RECOMBINE ELEMENTS TO MAKE A NEW WORK THAT DEPENDS FOR ITS MEANING ON (OFTEN UNLIKELY) RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE ELEMENTS.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is a notion stated explicitly in the video accompanying the written guide: that determining the boundaries of fair use is more an issue of determining community standards than it is a question of interpreting the letter of the law.

Much like the question posed in our last post about where we can locate the lower horizon for proprietary concepts (as distinct from the non-ownable background of fundamental processes and tools), we trying here to find the upper horizon for how much of officially proprietary cultural content can be appropriated without restriction for the purposes of cultural expression and dialogue.

The argument here is that the process for locating these horizons must incorporate an investigation into the changing standards of the multiple, overlapping communities (geographical, virtual, artistic, economic, etc.) where the appropriation is happening. And these investigations should not simply be conducted by corporate content owners and legislative bodies for the purposes of “knowing thy enemy”, but rather for the purpose of determing whether the legal horizons for fair use are being applied appropriately in relation to the horizons established by these communities.