Illegal Art exhibit

From January 25-February 21, 2003, the offices of In These Times will be transformed into a gallery to host Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age, a visual, audio and video show featuring works that challenge the expansion of copyright law and the policing of creative expression.

Exhibit hours will be
Mon/Wed/Fri from noon to 6:00 pm
at 2040 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647

There will also be special hours during the
Around the Coyote
art festival, Feb. 7-9:
Fri., noon to 7:00 pm
Sat., noon to 6:00 pm
Sun. noon to 4:00 pm

This national exhibition was organized by Stay Free! magazine, and opened to enthusiastic crowds in New York on Nov. 13; it will travel on to San Francisco later in the year. Further information on the New York show (including many fine examples of illegal art and downloadable movies) is online at

Illegal Art explores what is rapidly becoming the “degenerate art” of a corporate age: art and ideas on the legal fringes of intellectual property. Many artists in the show have been sued, often by major corporations, and have ended up defending their works in court. Loaded with gray areas, intellectual property law inevitably has a silencing effect, discouraging art that comments on today’s culture.

Where do First Amendment and “intellectual property” law collide? This question and others will be explored in the exhibit and in related programs:

  • A special showing of the film and video program will be held on the evenings of Feb. 7 and 8 at Select Media’s gallery (buddy.), 1542 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 2nd floor. See details at right.

  • A Feb. 15 panel debate organized in conjunction with The Public Square will feature Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford Law professor and the chair of Creative Commons. Additional artists will participate, including Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid and Mark Hosler, a founding member of experimental music/art collective Negativland.

Contact Jessica Clark at 773-772-0100, ext. 246 or for more information.


Full sponsors:
Free!, In These Times, Dix Art Mix/FOTA, The Public Square, Lumpen, and Select Media, Ellis Avenue Studios; Co-sponsor: Around the Coyote.

The audio portion of the Illegal Art show is available online at, and on a companion CD. As noted in the liner notes below, each song exemplifies a particular battle over intellectual property, from the sampling of music and media clips to the corporate ownership of such cultural treasures as the "Happy Birthday" song.

Information about the free CD:
This free CD will be given away at exhibit events

01 Negativland U2: Special Edit Radio Mix (5:46)
02 Biz Markie Alone Again (2:52) *
03 People Like Us Swinglargo (5:20)
04 Culturcide They Aren't the World (4:30) *
05 The Evolution Control Committee Rocked by Rape (4:28)
06 Beastie Boys Rock Hard (4:53) *
07 Dummy Run f.d.(1:23)
08 John Oswald black (2:01)
09 Corporal Blossom White Christmas (3:19)
10 Tape-beatles Reality of Matter (2:37)
11 Public Enemy Psycho of Greed (3:11)
12 The Verve Bittersweet Symphony (4:35) *
13 Wobbly Clawing Your Eyes Out Down to Your Throat (1:21)
14 De La Soul Transmitting Live from Mars (1:07) *
15 Buchanan and Goodman The Flying Saucer (4:18) *
16 The JAMs The Queen and I (4:50) *
17 Elastica Connection (2:20) *
18 Steinski and Mass Media The Motorcade Sped On (4:26) *
19 Invisibl Skratch Piklz white label edit (5:30) *
20 Xper.Xr Wu-chu-tung (1:43)
21 Boone Bischoff Happy Birthday To You (0:28)
* used without permission


Music has always been a craft of borrowing. In traditional, or folk, music, melodies and lyrics were handed down from generation to generation. At every stage, musicians would change the tune or substitute words at will, adapting songs to their own situations.

Like their predecessors, the artists featured here have drawn from the music around them--whether by borrowing a guitar riff or taking a digital sample--to create something new. But unlike their folk ancestors, they all run the risk of getting sued.

Two technologies, separated by centuries, have brought us to this point. First, writing and printing gave birth to the composer and the idea that a single person could own a piece of music. Second, sound recording allowed music performances to be stored and replayed--again, permitting an individual (or a company) to claim it as property.

These two kinds of musical property are reflected in present-day copyright law: "publishing rights" apply to the ownership of written music and "master rights" apply to the ownership of a recording of that music. When you use a portion of someone else's recording of a song, you need permission from the publisher and "clearance" from the owner of that recording. When you record without these permissions--and the exorbitant fees that go with them--you're in trouble. Not surprisingly, only a few musicians, like Puff Daddy and Fatboy Slim, can afford to sample legally.

For our culture to be a space for free expression and for creativity to flourish, audio artists must be able to build on bits and pieces of preexisting music. While the "fair use" doctrine allows artists to appropriate other works, it does so only in cases of commentary or parody. Fair use doesn't apply to the majority of "second-takers," those artists who reuse sounds without directly referring to the original.

Most of these tracks would never have existed if the artists had adhered to copyright law. Many other works might never be heard unless we act soon to grant artists the right to create them.

"U2: Special Edit Radio Mix"
The story behind this track and why it is officially "unavailable" is perhaps one of the best-known cases of a corporate giant record company crushing obscure artists in the name of intellectual property. In summary, U2’s label, Island Records, sued Negativland and SST Records for trademark and copyright infringement. The resulting fiasco inspired Negativland to publish a book, Fair Use, which meticulously documents the entire affair. Negativland is now a tireless advocate of relaxing copyright laws and has often helped other artists fight off litigation; many major labels now understand that messing with Negativland will almost certainly result in bad publicity.

Biz Markie*
"Alone Again"
Gilbert O’Sullivan’s 1991 lawsuit against Biz Markie for the uncleared use of 20 seconds from O’Sullivan’s "Alone Again (Naturally)" was a major turning point in the evolution of hip-hop. Markie lost the case; the judge told him, verbatim, "Thou shalt not steal." With that, the era of carefree sampling was over. Sample-heavy albums in the vein of Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back or the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique became impossibly expensive and difficult to release. Many artists continued to sample but retreated into using more and more obscure source material.

People Like Us
England’s People Like Us (a.k.a. Vicki Bennett) hasn’t been sued yet, perhaps because most of her source materials are obscure. Her work is almost 100% uncleared samples.

"They Aren’t the World"
In 1987 a group of artists based in Houston took the name Culturcide and released a record called Tacky Souvenirs of Pre-Revolutionary America. The album had no information about who was in Culturcide or how to contact them–perhaps because what they had done could have gotten them into legal trouble. Each track on the record is a pop hit with new lyrics recorded crudely over the top, sometimes with bits of noisy guitar added on. The new words are extremely pointed criticisms of the music industry.

The Evolution Control Committee
"Rocked by Rape"
Built from AC/DC’s "Back in Black" and snippets from Dan Rather newscasts, this piece was released as a single in 1999 by Eerie Materials but then withdrawn under threat of litigation from CBS.

Beastie Boys*
"Rock Hard"
The Beastie Boys released this as a single in 1985, and it quickly went out of print. The song was to reappear on their 1999 The Sounds of Science anthology, but they had to cut it after AC/DC refused permission for the use of "Back in Black." Beasties member Mike D reportedly talked to the band personally on the phone: "AC/DC could not get with the sample concept. They were just like, ‘Nothing against you guys, but we just don’t endorse sampling.’"

Dummy Run
British collagists Dummy Run make their music almost completely from other music. Taken from their 1996 album Pink Rocket, this piece is a self-reflective glimpse at some of the issues involved in sampling.

John Oswald
Oswald constructed this piece out of a dizzying array of James Brown samples, partially as a commentary on just how often Brown’s work has been reused by others. The track originally appeared on his 1989 CD Plunderphonic, which brought Oswald threats of legal action from the Canadian Recording Industry Association. He eventually was forced to relinquish all remaining copies of the disc, which were then physically destroyed. Despite all this, the album has become a cult classic in the genre of sample-based music.

Corporal Blossom
"White Christmas"
This track, which originally appeared on A Mutated Christmas (Illegal Art, 2001), combines various recordings of the classic Christmas carol. None of the samples have been cleared. If Corporal Blossom were forced to pay for all of them, the track would have to disappear.

"Reality of Matter"
The Tape-beatles’ goal since their inception in 1987 has been to explore the potential of making music without musical instruments, using only recording technology. They also believe that "recontextualization of previously ‘finished’ works can be done ethically and can in itself constitute authorship." This example of their work comes from their 1999 disc Good Times.

Public Enemy
"Psycho of Greed"
This unreleased track was recorded for PE’s latest CD, Revolverution. It contains a sample of the Beatles’ song "Tomorrow Never Knows." The clearance fee demanded by Capitol Records and the surviving Beatles was so high that PE decided to pull the track from the album.

The Verve*
"Bittersweet Symphony"
This hit pop song uses a sample from a string arrangement of "The Last Time" by the Rolling Stones. The Verve had trouble getting a licensing agreement from the Stones’ publisher, Alan Klein, who said, "I don’t agree with sampling as a matter of principle, and certainly not on a Stones song." (This is a strange stance, given that the Stones launched their career with covers of blues songs without compensating the original artists.) Eventually Klein gave in, but only after the Verve agreed to sign over all royalties to "Bittersweet Symphony" to the Stones. Later, when Nike approached the Verve about using the song in a commercial, the band refused. Nike then approached Klein about recording a cover version, since he owned the publishing rights. When members of the Verve found out about this, they agreed to let Nike use their version and donated their fee to charity. "The last thing in the world I wanted was for one of my songs to be used in a commercial," said Richard Ashcroft of the Verve. "I’m still sick about it. But it could have been worse. If we didn’t fight for the song, ‘Symphony’ would have ended up in a cheeseburger ad and no one could ever have taken our record seriously again."

"Clawing Your Eyes Out Down to Your Throat"
From Wobbly’s Playlist (Illegal Art, 2001), this song contains samples from a variety of sources, including several Johnny Cash songs. Like many sample-based works that don’t explicitly criticize the source material, this track would probably not be defendable in court as Fair Use.

De La Soul*
"Transmitting Live from Mars"
This track, from the album 3 Feet High and Rising, samples a song by the 1960s band The Turtles, which sued De La Soul in 1989 and won a judgment of $1.7 million. For its next album, De La Soul made sure to clear all samples, which cost a total of $100,000.

Buchanan and Goodman*
"The Flying Saucer"
Released in 1956, this record is probably the first successful use of "sampling" in popular music. It was done with magnetic tape, as digital technology did not yet exist. Dickie Goodman and Bill Buchanan edited together this alien invasion skit out of popular songs, for which they were sued for multiple copyright infringements. Their record label came to an agreement with the publishers of the original songs, and the record went on to sell close to a million copies, spawning a whole genre of "break-in" or "snippet" records. The hit record also served to boost sales of the sampled songs, and spurred interest in their creators, many of whom were African-American singers whose original renditions had never been heard by a mainstream (white) audience. Ironically, a recently released retrospective CD of Goodman’s work substitutes an alternative version of "Flying Saucer" (with reworked snippets) for the original, most likely due to licensing problems.

The JAMs*
"The Queen and I"
The iconoclastic Justified Ancients of Mu Mu released their first album in 1987, called 1987: What the Fuck’s Going On? It included many tracks that contained uncleared samples of popular music, but this one got them into particular trouble when they were sued by the Swedish group Abba for using almost all of "Dancing Queen." The album was deleted and remaining copies destroyed. The record’s original label read: "All sounds on this recording have been captured by The JAMs in the name of Mu. We hereby liberate these sounds from all copyright restrictions, without prejudice." (The JAMs are also known as the KLF, which stands for Kopyright Liberation Front.)

The British punk band Wire thought the main guitar riff from this song sounded too similar to its "Three Girl Rhumba," released in the 70s. In 1995, Wire threatened Elastica with legal action, and the matter was settled out of court.

Steinski & Mass Media*
"The Motorcade Sped On"
Steven Stein created this cut-up of Kennedy assassination coverage. His label, Tommy Boy, was unable to officially release it because CBS refused to grant clearance for the use of Walter Cronkite’s voice. It was instead released as a white label 12-inch single in 1986.

Invisibl Skratch Piklz*
white label edit
The Piklz are a special sort of band composed of a rotating lineup of hip-hop DJs, including Q-bert, Mixmaster Mike, and Shortcut. These highly skilled turntablists scratch out songs together live, each using a record and a record player as an instrument, each contributing, in real time, a different part (like drums, bass line, or horn stabs) to the music. This track comes from a 12-inch record pressed and circulated in 1996 with no information (a "white label"). Hip-hop and dance records often appear in this limited, underground manner and then vanish forever, never to be officially released due to copyright issues.

Originally from Hong Kong and now based in London, Xper.Xr adds his own personal accompaniment to EMF’s pop hit "Unbelievable." From his album Lun Hsiao Shai (Vaseline).

Boone Bischoff
"Happy Birthday To You"
Yes, the song the entire Western world sings at birthday parties is actually owned by a large corporation, and every time someone sings it in public without permission, it is an infringement of copyright. The song’s tune was published by schoolteachers Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893 as "Good Morning to All" in their book Song Stories for the Kindergarten. Children began singing it at birthday parties but with words they came up with themselves, which is how folk music typically develops. Nevertheless, the song–lyrics and all–is now owned by AOL Time Warner, the largest entertainment company on earth, and the corporation aggressively defends its property.

Selected Sources
Jeremy J. Beadle, Will Pop Eat Itself: Pop Music in the Soundbite Era, Faber & Faber, London, 1993.

Kembrew McLeod, Owning Culture, Peter Lang Publishing, New York, 2001.

Peter Shapiro, "Tangents", The Wire, April 2002, issue 218, p. 47.

* used without permission

Track research, selection, and liner notes by Philo T. Farnsworth, Steev Hise, and Carrie McLaren. Thanks also to Alexandra Ringe.







Illegal Art
Video Mash-Up Festival

February 7 and 8, 2003
Buddy, 1542 n, milwaukee ave, 2nd floor

$10 donation on Friday (7) and Saturday (8).

We are excited to present a film and video program of works featured in the Illegal Art festival and Select Media/Lumpen dvds. This Mash-Up Video festival will take place at our space, buddy., Much fun in store as The Evolution Control Committee and Paul Harvey Oswald, Douggpound and Mark Denardo, and elisa harkns (H3ro) are scheduled to perform on one or both nights.

Films will also be available for viewing at the In These Times exhibit space just in case you can't make it.

Be the first cat in chicago to recieve a free Illegal Art cd or dvd when you come by!

The Stay Free! ILLEGAL ART COMPILATION CD will be given away at the Video Mash–Up festival (see liner notes at bottom left). First 60 persons to donate will receive a copy. Otherwise you may receive a copy of Select DVD from issue #5. See liner notes below.

Friday , February 8
Program One : Mash-Me

7:00 pm

These films and videos appropriate others' intellectual property, whether through the use of found footage, unauthorized music, or shots of copyrighted or trademarked material. (Filmmakers and videographers now have to get permission for just about every concert t-shirt, store sign, or other piece of intellectual property that happens to appear onscreen).

Phil Patiris
"Iraq Campaign 1991"
Video, 1991, 19 min.
Video artist Phil Patiris transformed network news footage, clips from Star Trek, and sports coverage into a critique of the media/industrial complex.

Brian Boyce
"State of the Union"
Video, 2001, 2 min.
In this brief video, Brian Boyce combines unauthorized CNN footage of George W. Bush with clips from The Teletubbies.

Paul Harvey Oswald
Video, "Fair Use," 2002, 2 min.
Video, "A Natural Thing," 2000, 4 min.
Two video collages from Paul Harvey Oswald, a collective based in Rockford, Illinois.

Bill Wasik, Eugene Mirman, and Brian Spinks
"Black Thunder"
Video, 2001, 2 min.
These parodies of political advertising are composed of found footage.

Naomi Uman
Film, 1999, 5 min.
Using a soft porn film from the 70s, nail polish, bleach and a magnifying glass, Naomi Uman transforms a writhing, naked woman into a hole--an empty, animated space.

Michael Colton
"Puppy Love"
Digital video, 2002, 1 min.
This improvisational short, starring a bull terrier named Punchie, was created in the offices of the Modern Humorist.
D. Jean Hester

"Buy Me"
Digital Video, Super 8, 2002, 4 min.
For this surreal meditation on consumer culture, D. Jean Hester recorded images from fast-food and automotive commercials.

Keith Sanborn
"The artwork in its age of mechanical reproducibility"

8:30 pm
"Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story"

by Todd Haynes
Film, 1987, 43 min.
With Barbie dolls as the principal actors, Superstar portrays the life of Karen Carpenter and her battle with anorexia.
[Shown without permission.]

9:30 pm -1am
Mark Denardo with
Elisa Harkins on multi Visual tip.
Remixing of video data by Paul Harvey Oswald
DJ Mark of Evolution Control Committee.
DJ Spin-Laden

Saturday, February 8
Program Two: Digital Video Detournement

7:00 pm

Digital Video Détournement is a selection of works by radical cultural workers and experimental video makers critiquing various coercive forces and systems. Using desktop editing techniques mixed with humorous direction many of these makers appropriate work, divert and re-edit it as a way to register their dissent or to create something surreal. Described as tactical mediaticians, culture jammers, troublemakers, media activists and humorists, these makers create works that are a sampling of the digital video underground that is impacting our cultures.

GNN [ S-11 (Channel) Surfing the Apocalypse ]
2001, Video, Color, Approx 12 min.
Culled from over 20 hours of television footage recorded over a one month period and across 13 networks, S-11 Redux is a sound-bite blitzkrieg that challenges the messages we have been fed from our mainstream media and the government it serves. Be warned - this video moves quickly and will require at least two viewings to digest its full impact. You may never be able to look at the coverage of S-11 and its post-impact coverage the same way, ever

2000, Video, Color, Approx 8 min.
Patriotism Shopping, and mind control

Davy Force! [ MF-47 TV NETWORK - CELL PHONE] 2001, Video, Color, Approx 3 min.
The MF-47 Network is an Information Agency that operates in conjunction with the Office of Fatherland Defense. This last MF-47 Network news blurb entices you to use the cell phone.

Davy Force! Hypno Chciken 2000::

Bryan Boyce [Special Report ]- 1999, video, Color, Approx 4 min.
What if TV news wasn't merely horrifying but literally came from horror movies? Bryan Boyce (maker of last year's State of the Union) puts terrifying words in the mouths of America's top-rated merchants of terror.

Fensler [Knowing was half the Battle]
2001, Animation, Color, Approx 6 min.
Brand new Public Service Announcements from our pals at GI Joe , A great American hero cartoon series and Fensler Film Academy

Mike Nourse [Terror, Iraq, Weapons ]
2002, Video , Color, aprox 4 min
President Bush re-edited for meaning during anti-iraq speech in Ohio.

Paper Rad [Videos de Paperrad]
2002, video, color, 12 min
the new media lo-tech aesthetic .


Others TBD


8:30 pm
by Brian Springer
Video, 1995, 60 min.
The behind-the-scenes maneuverings of politicians and newscasters in the early 1990s are exposed in Brian Springer's documentary.

9:30 pm -1am

Rotten Milk :
Evolution Control Committee :
DJ Douggpound and DJ Jaime Reid :