Monday, July 21, 2008

Lethem on Copyright as Art

From Copy This Book, an interview with Jonathan Lethem in Wired, 04.19.07

"I wanted to say any artist could make up their own way of dealing with copyright," Lethem explains. "I wanted to possess the activity. Some novelists have already done that by using Creative Commons licenses. But I'm saying we can make up a new set of rules every time we offer something to the world. Artists should take possession of the transmission of their art. In fact, that could be part of the art. Each copyright could be particular to with the art itself.

"The point is, it ought to be up to the artists."

Listening to Lethem, one imagines a world where every artist crafts an idiosyncratic copyright notice, with its own strange rules, to adorn the front page or liner notes or gallery notice fronting her creations.

Lethem doesn't think of himself as a copyright activist, nor does he claim to understand every aspect of intellectual property law. He just wants to tweak people's cultural perceptions, which is perhaps the first step toward changing laws.

"I urge people to think and feel differently about societal mores regarding originality and plagiarism," Lethem says. "I want to provoke people to reexamine the realm of imperfection that is copyright."

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