Will You Sue Me in a Box? Dylan, Seuss, and Letting Us Play with Their Stuff

The fabulous so-called Bob Dylan versions of “Green Eggs & Ham” and “Cat in the Hat” that this blog (when it was on myspace exclusively) directed you to back on March 7 are gone.

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?

Well, yeah.

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!


2 thoughts on “Will You Sue Me in a Box? Dylan, Seuss, and Letting Us Play with Their Stuff

  1. Thought you & Mark would like Les Foufs here in Montreal. Now that you know I can stop having to remember to tell you about it. I figured that you would want comments on your blog so that you feel someone is reading it!



    Foufounes Electriques (Les)
    87, rue Sainte-Catherine Est
    Montreal, QC H2X 1K5
    Phone: (514) 844-5539

    Welcome to “Les Foufs”
    Foufounes Electriques has been rocking out this city’s core for more than two decades, and for good reason. This massive three-floor industrial space, adorned with graffiti, manages to keep its several incarnations rolling all at once. The bottom floor is a free-admission pub, with pool tables and an outdoor patio in the summer, which becomes a heated terrace for smokers in winter. The entire place is packed by 7 p.m. on a Friday.

    Party Space
    The upstairs features a rock stage where up-and-coming rock bands play for a very reasonable cover charge. After 11 p.m. on club nights, the bands are cleared off the stage to make room for the weekly dancing and drinking fests; Wednesday, for example, is Under Attack night; (featuring punk, hardcore and emo music), Tuesday is Retro Night, and Sweet N Sour Thursdays are ladies night, with cheap drink specials for the fairer sex.

    Foufounes should be commended for its management, which succeeds in keeping a hardcore space drug-and-violence-free for some serious partying.

    Payment: Cash Only
    Hours: Open daily. Fouf gallery open Monday to Saturday at 4:00 PM
    Atmosphere: Gothic, Happy Hour, Pub, Patio
    Music Type: Alternative Rock, Hard Rock, Punk, Ska, Techno

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