Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Who owns culture?

In Search of Lost Copyright: Disney & Proust, Viacom vs. YouTube, CSI: Miami, 2 Live Crew, & the Carpenters
Save for stylish mustaches, Walt Disney and Marcel Proust probably had very little in common. That is, until the enactment of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, a.k.a. the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act."


The big deal arises from the prohibitive environment the Copyright Extension Act and the DMCA promote. For fear of being slapped with lawsuits and injunctions, the ordinary citizen's ability to engage in cultural and political criticism is severely limited. In a cultural lexicon increasingly dominated by corporate-generated images, the inability to comment and critique these images for fear of retribution cuts at the very heart of what it means to engage in "speech." This prohibitive environment especially curtails the speech of "emerging" artists and political actors, whose lack of financial resources and public regard afford them little help in taking on an allegedly infringed-upon wealthy and/or corporate adversary. The most important kind of speech, that which critiques the images and concepts of our media culture, becomes "chilled."