Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

PD/GEM sketch :: Josh 137

UPDATE: This site has moved to


Here's my first Gem project in about 6 months. The music is by Josh Harding.

Open Letter to Victoria Espinel: A call to reason

Dear Victoria Espinel,

As an American citizen and digital media artist, copyright issues are a part of my everyday life and it is important that they be treated seriously. It is also important that they be treated rationally.

I agree with some of the sentiments in your recent statement ( regarding counterfeit goods, particularly those that pose a public safety risk. However, it seems to me that
these sorts of violations are already covered as well as can be expected under the current laws. The issue of counterfeit toothpaste is not primarily a copyright issue, it is an FDA or customs concern. Stolen logos may have been employed to achieve the deception, but this in itself is not what makes this example so serious. It is the negative effect on human life due to the cheap, cost-cutting manufacture of such goods. The same goes for the counterfeit car parts you mention. The types of people that are in the business of putting dangerous chemicals in counterfeit toothpaste to increase profits are not going to be deterred by stronger copyright laws. Instead, the ramifications will be felt by individual users, consumers and small artists.

It appears that in your statement you have used examples such as the counterfeit toothpaste and car parts in an attempt to instill fear in the public, to make them think that stronger copyright laws with
harsher penalties will do something to stop these sorts of crimes from happening in the future. The reality is that harsher copyright penalties will for the most part be employed on a smaller scale
against less serious violations. They will not, in the vast majority of cases, be used to ensure the public's safety. Harsher copyright penalties will be used primarily against individuals, not companies or organized crime rings, who are involved in simple intellectual property theft (pirated software, music, movies, etc.). I am not suggesting that such theft is harmless. However, it is more akin to low level shoplifting than grand larceny and terrorism (which is the image I get from your description of the toothpaste counterfeiters).

What I ask is that you please be reasonable in your approach to copyright enforcement. The American public that I know does not support massive multi-million dollar fines for middle class mothers and teenagers who have hopped on the filesharing bandwagon. People who share files without benefiting monetarily should not be treated the same as a counterfeiting ring producing pirated DVDs for commercial sale and profit. In keeping with a free and open internet, ISPs should not be responsible for the data that passes through their networks as long as they are responsive to properly filed takedown notices. This is good for the American economy, and the continued spread of American culture and ideals. Americans are great innovators, and there is no better place for innovation than the internet.

Finally, say it like it is. Do not lump pirated music in with deadly counterfeit toothpaste. Do not make it seem like the majority of copyright enforcement deals with protecting the health and safety of the American public, it does not. Copyright enforcement is (and always will be) primarily about economics, and while this is certainly important, the nature of the crime must always be taken into account. Please, be reasonable, do not create harsher penalties for regular copyright violations. Do not continue using a blanket approach to violations, this will only increase the occurrence of injustices like
the Jammie Thomas case.

Stand up to the massive corporate lobbying effort that I know is underway. Stand up for reason.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Takeshi Murata live in Chicago

[This page has been moved to Please update links to the new address.]


One of my favorite video artists is coming to Chicago on March 4th. Takeshi Murata is screening some of his videos and performing live with musician Robert Beatty as part of the Gene Siskel Film Center's Conversations at the Edge lecture series (which is fantastic). Here's the writeup from the Gene Siskel website:

Takeshi Murata & Robert Beatty
2003-10, Takeshi Murata and Robert Beatty, USA, ca. 90 min.

For the last six years, artist Takeshi Murata and musician Robert Beatty (Hair Police, Three Legged Race) have collaborated on a series of visceral, glitch-based animations, setting Murata’s psychedelic imagery to Beatty’s hypnotic compositions. Murata’s videos range from hand-drawn animations of fluidly morphing shapes to painterly abstractions of meticulously hijacked digital code. Beatty employs hacked electronics and thrift-store cast-offs to craft otherworldly sonic narratives. Together, the duo’s electronic alchemy transforms the detritus of consumer culture into dazzling tapestries of sound and color. This evening, CATE teams up with experimental music and intermedia series Lampo to bring you Murata and Beatty in a special screening and performance. The two will present their work in three sets: a solo performance by Beatty, a screening of videos by Murata, and a new audio-visual performance, created especially for this show, by both. Co-presented by Lampo. Visit Multiple formats. (Amy Beste)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tell U.S. what you think of copyright laws

Victoria Espinel, Barack Obama's newly appointed Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, has put out a call for public input on the subject of intellectual property enforcement: "My office is asking the public to give us information about the costs and the risks – and then give us suggestions for what we could be doing better as a government." The full statement, and a pdf detailing specific requests, can be found here.

Please tell Victoria how you feel the U.S. government should approach copyright violations. Let her know that this is not what the public wants. Send comments and suggestions to:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Interview with Nadav Assor on Vague Terrain

My first piece of writing for Vague Terrain has been posted. It's an interview with video artist Nadav Assor.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

100 Hours of Solitude

This is probably the longest video on Vimeo.

I think the appropriate way to view this is to project on a full white wall in an otherwise empty room. A couch, cot, or bare mattress are acceptable, along with bare necessities like a few gallons of water and a box of saltines.

Go ahead and watch it straight through, I dare you.

100 Hours of Bliss from Benjamin Baker-Smith on Vimeo.