Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tisha Turk on multiple viewpoints

Tisha Turk, professor of English at U. Minn.-Morris, has a great response to Judges as Bad Reviewers, which she links to her testimony in the DMCA hearings: 

What I found especially interesting was her analysis of a specific case (Blanch v. Koons) in which appropriation artist Jeff Koons' use of a copy of a fashion photograph was found to be fair use: the court deferred to Koons' own account of his reasons for using the photo—and by "[s]hifting to a particular expert, the artist himself, the court left the structure of expertise intact." As Tushnet explains,
fair use was determined not on the basis of potential audiences’ understandings of new meanings from the accused work, but on the ability of the artist to express his intentions.... Thus, rather than accepting that multiple meanings and interpretations can coexist, the court picked a side in a contest about true meaning, not unlike a ruling in a contracts case.

Not surprisingly, that passage also made me think of the DMCA hearings, where my primary value was not my academic credentials (except indirectly, insofar as the nature of my employment allows me to be cheerfully matter-of-fact about my fan activities) and certainly not my legal expertise (of which I have exactly none) but my willingness and ability to speak as an artist expressing intention: "This is what I need and this is why I need it." …

Tushnet's article shows, I think, why we need both to encourage fans who can do that kind of speaking to do it (because many fans, for any of a variety of reasons, are not in that position) and to change the cultures—legal and otherwise—that value artistic expertise/authority at the expense of interpretive multiplicity.

I mean, that's a huge part of the point of fandom, right? Do all the readings! Make all the meanings! Explore every possible option in as many ways as possible! One of the many reasons that vids and vidding appeal to me is precisely that they're not one person's art project; rather, they're embedded in a whole ecosystem of overlapping and intersecting and sometimes contradictory projects and goals and ideals and interests. That's what makes it fun.

Judges don't have to be fans--but recognizing that audiences and interpretations vary is one thing copyright analysis should share with fandom.

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