Seuss sues swift and sure.
Per Dan Brekke in Salon.com, “When a musician recorded ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ in the voice of vintage Bob Dylan and posted it online, the Grinch estate promptly replied: One fish, two fish, cease and desist.”
Kevin Ryan, a music producer and author of Recording the Beatles (an amazing, slighly obsessive yet fascinating tome), created his brilliant pastiche of Theordore Geisel and Robert Zimmerman’s works just for the fun of it. But no fun in the new world for the little creators.
The heavy hand of copyright law is ready for a smackdown – more and more of the time.
A lot of people who work in publishing, esp children’s publishing, knows that the Geisel estate is somewhat insane over copyright.
NO one fucks with that Cat in the Hat. NO one mocks Fox in Sox. Seems a little contrary to kind old Teddy’s mild and wacky sense of humor, but that’s the way the will worked out.
So, what’s the point here? Another case of little guy getting squashed by those with corporate money and lawyerly muscle? Another case of how the Ecstasy of Influence – the wonderful mash-up sensibility that has informed so much of the current cultural landscape – is facing increasing opposition from the powers that be?
Look at what art and even advertising we see around us; EVERYTHING references everything else. Just about anybody born after 1960 who’s made anything has done this themselves in some way, even if they later abjure ironic reference or seek totally original nonselfconscious methods of expression.*
Culturally, the hip-hop sensibility of sampling and appropriation is arguably the biggest thing to happen since art entered the age of mechanical reproduction.
But it’s getting harder to cut up the pieces and play with them anymore.
Read the Salon article: Brekke talks about the 2LiveCrew case, and lots of other fascinating stuff. He doesn’t talk about how user-created or consumer-posted content, like YouTube, is causing conniptions among product owners like NBC and Viacom, who just don’t want us to play with their stuff! That’s the basic thing I see.
They just don’t want us to play w/their stuff. Even if it helps them sell more of it. . . .
btw: Ryan’s note-perfect “Dylan” versions of Seuss are still out there somewhere – find ’em for a smile. And to pay tribute to Ryan’s loving work – he just did it for the fun of it. He didn’t really deserve that big a smackdown.
Or did he? Weigh in your self.
*see David Foster Wallace’s seminal 1983 essay, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction,” for the starter argument AGAINST ironic reference. Oh wait, I just used a long footnote, a marker of Wallace’s style, to talk about Wallace – Help! Dave! Don’t sue me!