This is a course blog for the classes on digital government and social media in the public sector" class taught by Professor Ines Mergel at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. The blog posts include comments and ideas from MPA, MAIR and EMPA students studying the use of new technologies in the public sector.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Wit or Piracy?
Here are two of my favorite memes and gifs from the 2012 Election:
These memes are hilarious and for a brief moment extremely
relevant. They are also using copyrighted work.I started to wonder about copyright issues and social media when the Big
Bird memes hit.Particularly once the Children’s
Television Network and Sesame Street issued a cease
and desist letter to the Obama Campaign to halt a Obama Ad featuring the
copyrighted character Big Bird. If you are curious here’s the ad (thanks to the
magic of the internet it will live on forever): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZxs09eV-Vc
Berg, creator of the television show Friday Night Lights, also composed a
cease and desist letter when the Romney Campaign attempted to co-opt a
popular catchphrase “Clear Eyes Full Hearts Can’t Lose” from the show. In
addition to quoting phase in speeches. The campaign attempted to make a viral
hit out of this image:
And then there was this cover page on the Romney facebook page:
But the most interesting part was when Romney's campaign moved beyond simply using the phase and connected television show to support the campaign using social media, but when they attempted to get Peter Berg's intellectual property to generate campaign revenue.
Unlike Sesame Street which
basically told the Obama Campaign they wished to stay out of politics. Berg’s
letter made it clear that he disagreed with the Romney Campaign categorically: "Your
politics and campaign are clearly not aligned with the themes we portrayed in
our series…”.It’s not new for artists
and organizations to disagree with candidate using their art, but the co-modification is certainly a new one.
There are a couple of points I’d like to make regarding the
use of intellectual property, social media and this past election.But basically the question I’m interested in
is what are you (the meme creator, political candidate or twitter user)
stealing someone else’s property and when are you simply appropriating and re purposing cultural signifier for your own art?
To answer this I ask my friend, an artist and graduate of
Rhode Island School of Designand his
friends, who also graduated from prestigious art schools, what they
thought.Their answers we non-committal
and basically were as long as you can prove you are using the existing material
simply as the basis for your own work (that dramatically alters the original
work) your fine.
So this is totally okay.
But this is not as okay.
Another factor is money. Do you plan on profiting from replicating someone else's work? In the case of the Big Bird and Binders Full of Women memes, clearly no. But in the case of the Romney "Clear Eyes" bracelets..well, that's certainly attaching a dollar sign to someone else's work.
Why should we, students of social media, care? Well because in the haste to post witty content like this:
Do we even consider who made it in the first place as well as
the time, creative energy and years of school that it took the creator to get
to a place where she or he were ready to create the work.(In this case the actors, directors and film crew involved in making the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot.)