Textual Poachers

I really enjoyed reading Textual Poachers because a lot of the topics bordered on my own research topic (music and copyright). One way in which the two directly connect is in Jenkins’s discussion of copyright law and reappropriation. Jenkins brins up the example of Slaysu, a fanzine that “routinely published feminist-inflected erotica set in various media universes” (31). He analyzes this reappropriation as drawing “on elements from dominant culture in order to produce underground art that explicitly challenges patriarchal assumptions” (31). Although this artwork constitutes a transformation in the original media from which it draws, under our current copyright system, it is illegal because it uses copyright material. Jenkins then quotes Barbara Denison as saying that a corporation trying to control the use of their copyrighted material “has misread both the copyright law and probably the Declaration of Independence” (32). Although Denison is correct that the Constitution does explicitly state that copyright is intended to increase the incentive of struggling artists by giving them control over the work they have produced, she is incorrect in her accusation that the corporations have misread copyright law. In fact, copyright law gives corporations the ability to be authors (“corporate authors”, as it states in the Copyright Act of 1909), and even sets up different guidelines over how long these corporate authors can control a work, giving them ownership of a work they have a contract to for either 95 years after publication or 120 after creation, whichever comes first. As many critics have pointed out, this legislation is dated in a technological age in which it is easier than ever for fans and “amateurs” to take the media that they love and constitute their own art out of it. Larry Lessig, one of these critics, notes that our culture has shifted from a RO (Read/Only) culture, in which fans are more likely to passively consume culture to a RW (Read/Write) culture, in which fans are more likely to remix and transform art that they like. I think the concept of “textual poaching” cuts to the heart of this matter (although I failed to include it in my first draft), and it shows that really, we have always been a RW culture, only that it is now easier than ever for the W aspect of this culture to be published and shared.

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