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Takeovers & Makeovers: Artistic Appropriation, Fair Use, and Copyright in the Digital Age

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On November 7 & 8, 2008, the University of California, Berkeley will hold a symposium on appropriation rights in the digital era entitled:
Takeovers & Makeovers: Artistic Appropriation, Fair Use, and Copyright in the Digital Age.

This event will bring together artists, lawyers, art historians, and representatives from the information technology community to discuss the changing field of appropriation art in the wake of the emergence of new digital media technologies that have radically altered access to and manipulation of information.

Takeovers & Makeovers:
Artistic Appropriation, Fair Use, and Copyright in the Digital Age
November 7th and 8th, 2008
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley Art Museum
2621 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704

Full program at:

Participants include:
David Evans (Professor of Art History, Arts Institute at Bournemouth)
Fred Von Lohmann (Senior Staff Attorney, The Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Michael Mandiberg (Artist, New York)
Jason Schultz (Associate Director, Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic)
MTAA [M. River & T. Whild] (Artists, New York)
Tom McDonough (Professor of Art History, SUNY Binghamton)
Virginia Rutledge (Special Counsel, Creative Commons, Chair, Art Law Committee, New York City Bar Association)
Abigail de Kosnik (Professor of New Media and Performance Studies, UC Berkeley)
Larisa Mann (Jurisprudence Scholar, Boalt School of Law)
Anne M. Wagner (Professor of Art History, UC Berkeley)
Candice Breitz (Artist, Professor of Fine Art, Braunschweig University of Art)
Rick Prelinger (Co-Founder, The Prelinger Library & Board President, The Internet Archive)
Richard Rinehart (Digital Media Director and Adjunct Curator, Berkeley Art Museum)
The Billboard Liberation Front (Media Activists, San Francsico)
Peter Krapp, (Professor, Film & Media Studies, School of Humanities UC Irvine)
Marisa Olson, (Artist, Curator at Large, Rhizome; Ph.D. Candidate, Rhetoric/Film Studies, UC Berkeley)

Appropriation - the act of taking private property and making it over as one's own - is a crucially important, yet increasingly fraught concept in contemporary art and culture. For art historians the term designates and often critically engaged art practice in which artists glean materials from cultural artifacts and transform, parody, remix, and recontextualize them. Yet the term has a markedly different status in the legal discourse, in which 'appropriation' is virtually indistinguishable from its shadow, 'misappropriation.' Indeed, under the law any act of appropriation can be argued to be an infringement of copyright or trademark, while even murkier strategies of quotation, reference, or influence can be deemed plagiarism. How do restrictions on appropriative acts effect creativity and limit artistic production and attendant forms of social, political, and cultural critique? What might be the ramifications of constant extensions of exclusive rights for the public domain? Is the property of large media corporations more or less valuable than artistic reinterpretations of their materials? Could appropriation be the price one pays for being culturally relevant? Is appropriation an honor or an insult? What can be learned from art historical instances of appropriation for contemporary practice, and vice versa? How might the terrain in which the legal and art discourses over appropriation meet be mapped productively? Of note here are the many legal battles fought over fair use in the music industry, while the art world has largely stayed out of the fray, leading to a number of myths about fair use in the fine arts. Does the knowledge, for example, that artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg licensed certain images they reproduced as artworks alter the reception, interpretation, and relevance of their work? Has the fact that many artists have chosen to settle their copyright debates behind closed doors rather than in the courtroom hurt the cause of fair use?

The intersection of copyright and creativity creates a complex web of relationships and paradoxes: artists who freely circulate their work rely on licensing to support themselves, and those who appropriate copyrighted material often go on to copyright their own work and limit its circulation. The digital era has ushered in further complications, as digital technologies and user-generated content sites facilitate the easy appropriation and distribution of source material, in part or wholesale, but severely complicate the legal issues surrounding these works of art. Creative Commons, for example, has developed a new form of copyright that allows individuals to opt for less than exclusive rights on their creations, so that works can be freely transformed and disseminated. In addition to addressing the history, present, and possible future of appropriation, conference participants will take up its relationship to current debates over digital copyright law, fair use, and mass distribution in on-line environments.

Conference Organizers:
Erica Levin (Ph.D. Candidate, Film Studies, UC Berkeley)
Tara McDowell (Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, UC Berkeley)
Kris Paulsen (Ph.D. Candidate, Rhetoric, UC Berkeley)

contact: takeovermakeovers@gmail.com