Transformative Use

I am in the midst of producing a dance theater production titled All Good Men. All Good Men began its life as a dance theater adaptation of a Dylan Thomas filmscript (The Doctor and the Devils – originally published 1953.) I have not sought permission to adapt and perform the script.

Completely unrelated: Michael Jackson passed recently. I was never a teenage girl, and we didn’t have cable when I was growing up, so while I appreciate his music, MJ never meant much to me. But a lot of my friends are in full Triple M swing (Michael Memorial Mode), and one of them recently posted the following on facebook. It’s a bunch of clips from Fred Astaire movies, set to MJ’s song Smooth Criminal.

While enjoying the cool of the video, I couldn’t help wondering how long this will stay up; there is no way the music has been licensed (or it would have a permission granted credit), and I’m quite certain that the movies haven’t be licensed either. To see a longer post on copyright, click here. In case you don’t want to read that:

If someone makes something, they own its copyright. The term of copyright can expire, but in the case of both MJ music and Astaire movies, I’m certain that’s not the case. Copyright permission is – therefore – required. There’s a lot of legal work happening now about transformative use. Transformative Use is using part of something copyrighted to make something new – that you then own the copyright of. The famous Barack Obama picture by Shepard Fairey is a fine example.

Obama_Poster_ColfYou can see stuff about that here, here, and here. Fairey talks about it here and here. This video of Fairey talking about his work is also worth a view.

With Transformative Use one is re-working an existing piece to create something totally new. Tansformative use is one of the concepts that exists within Fair Use law. A Fair Use – Transformative Use defense of a usage does not mean that a usage is legal. But judgments in Fair Use defended lawsuits usually hinge around impact on the value of the previously existing copyrighted product. Does the value of the AP photograph decline because of Fairey’s use? Does the video bring down the value of MJ’s or MGM’s catalog? Does my production bring down the value of Thomas’s work? With Fairey’s pic his usage certainly didn’t devalue the original photograph. With the MJ video – if a song or video is available for free, people won’t buy it (as much.) With my production, I’m pretty sure I’m not harming the value of Thomas’s product. But that is not something I get to decide. The copyright holder gets to decide that.

Aside from the impact on the value of a prior work, there is the issue of credit. I am crediting Thomas, and the video credits Jackson and the film participants. The Ap is suing Fairey to get credit for the photograph (as you can see in one of the links.) If whomever posted that video doesn’t have permission -even though the usage is transformative- I wouldn’t be surprised to see it get pulled.

I’d like my pain up front, please

I wrote a post a little while ago about the current economic crisis. In that post I wrote:

Its amazing to me that they are saying maybe this latest stimulus wont be enough. Enough for what? Enough for whom? We live in a world that is constantly achieving new balance points….. There is very simple economic data that tells us this. The market evolves, and when the internal combustion engine develops, the people who make carriages are screwed…..Clear ideas are guideposts that can help us know how it all works. But even if we do know how it works, there is still the matter of how it is actually gonna work.”

The video below is an interview with Thomas Friedman on MSNBC. I think the only thing that Thomas can’t point out is that just as the President has to keep Republican’s voting with him, he has to keep Democrats voting with him. I do believe that there will come a time when some of the spending in the current budget will be rolled back. But if Obama didn’t do that now, Democrats would object that he was being run by the Republicans.

The economy that George Bush allowed to slide away is what Obama inherited. Oddly enough, in order to take the long-term steps to fix things, there have to be some steps ‘in the wrong direction’. Friedman is terribly smart… I enjoy listening to him keep our eyes on the ball.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Arlington National Cemetery

My mothers father died before I was born, in a bicycle accident. Ive visited his grave site now and then with my family. Now my grandmother has joined him. A few months ago I was at his grave-site again, to attend my Grandmothers unveiling – the first time I visited the site visiting both of them together.

My sister and my grandmotherThis is a picture of my sister and my grandmother from Thanksgiving ’05, with uncle steve  in the background.

I went to a meeting this afternoon out in Shirlington. On my route I passed Arlington Cemetery, and its neat rows of markers. It made me think about Arlington as the place where the military family is buried together. Why is it that some of our military end up together in Arlington, and not with their relatives?

For some people joining the military is as much an economic choice as a moral one. Perhaps burial by the state helps the families bear a small portion of the burden that the loss brings. I understand also that burial at Arlington is a sign of accomplishment within the brotherhood and family of those whose work is to protect our country.

I appreciate President Obamas reference to the burden of duty in last nights address to Congress. He said:

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support.  To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America.

I agree with him about the example of America. I wrote something about that some time ago. The kicker in my piece was: “we measure our strength by our power to spread freedom, not only our ability to enforce it.”  Like the stones at Arlington, the American example – that shining city on a hill – is something that we each create together.  Arlington marks our nations protectors, and also the choices of our democracy.

[4/18/09: should have been, I think: ‘our capacity to inspire freedom, not only our ability to enforce it.’]

Arlington National Cemetery

First snow fall at Arlington in 2009

Photo by: Kaitlin Horst ANC staffer.