[click image to play video in QuickTime; 35 meg, 0:04:56]
What happens when you record the poet reading his text by creating four, individual, 60-second sound clips of a recording available online to listen to by using readily available sound recorders? Is this an ethical work-around to capturing the entire piece? Does it matter what the motivation is for mixing pieces—whether for personal or educational or commercial use, or for aesthetic purposes (e.g., to preserve the rhythm of the poem by allowing the poet to read his work in my multimedia piece)?
The poem used for this piece is long, and what if the remixer wanted to edit some parts out, or move certain moments around? What if the new author takes the sound files, edits them, and repositions them? Does she create a “new” poem by doing so? What if the remixer does not openly acknowledge doing so? Further, what if she wants not only to edit the pieces of the original poem, but to rewrite some of it? When does the original poem become something new? How many words or lines constitute a new piece of work? And, pushing even further, what happens if she publishes this “new” work in an online database where people share files to edit, alter, remix, and repurpose? What does it really mean to be a derivative of something?
The re-appropriated compositions we create are in some ways unique to creators, to our creativity and imagination. They are, despite their reliance on the act of remixing, still individual at some level. As Negativland argues:
Artists who routinely appropriate... are not attempting to profit from the marketability of their subjects at all. They are using elements, fragments, or pieces of someone else's created artifact in the creation of a new one for artistic reasons. These elements may remain identifiable, or they may be transformed to varying degrees as they are incorporated into the new creation, where there may be many other fragments all in a new context, forming a new “whole.” This becomes a new “original,” neither reminiscent of nor competitive with any of the many "originals" it may draw from. ( Negativland, "Changing Copyright")
Where is that balance? How does my multimedia piece attempt to both create something new and still respect the “giants” on whose shoulders I stood? Projects such as mine need to cultivate a symbiotic relationship between artists. I chose these pictures because I found them beautiful and fitting for the piece; they fit a new purpose, so in that way they are new, but they needed to be old first.
We have to, as Jim Porter (2005) suggested, consider the time and place and intent in the use of the copyrighted material. What are the legitimate uses? When is it a derivative work? Because United States case law derives from casuistry, this means that only through the making of these multimedia pieces, and the potential threat of litigation, can these questions and assumptions regarding authorship and ownership be challenged.