Friday, September 17, 2010

Godard defends an mp3 downloader

“There are no copyrights, only copy-duties.” So said Uncle Jean on the subjects of of intellectual property and copyright law. For those who require further elaboration, I refer you to one of his latter-day masterpieces, the multipart essay/montage film Histoire(s) du cinema, which at one point was up in its entirety with English subs on YouTube, but can still found around the Net, duplicated from the British DVD. One of the episodes in that mind-blowing series contains a legend where the copyright should be that reads “No Copyright [Year] JLG.”

Godard is fully aware of the Internet-download situation and, as I noted here some weeks back, recently tweaked his producers and the public by releasing trailers for his latest, Film Socialisme, that actually were the film itself, sped-up to different lengths. To solidify his belief that there is no such thing as intellectual property, he has now donated a thousand Euros to the defense fund of a Frenchman on trial for downloading 13,788 mp3s. You can read a summary of the story in English here (with good translations in the comments field), or if you read French, here is the original story.

By donating money — and even more importantly, his name — to the defense of James Climent, the downloader in question, Godard is putting his money where his mouth is, and underscoring his belief that copyright is a concept intended to put money in folks’ pockets who never had anything to do with the creation of the works in question (notice his emphasis on the inheritance of money by the families of artists long after they are dead).

In Histoire(s), Godard demonstrated with his usual brilliance that he could borrow images from all eras of cinema and create something entirely new. (The blog entry cites him saying, “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”) As a result the series has never been picked up for distribution in the U.S. because all the arthouse distributors, large and small, are paralyzed by the notion of lawsuit by copyright owners. The terms “alternative culture” and “alternative cinema” mean very little in the U.S. when you get right down to it. Here is the beginning of that brilliant work, with English subs:

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