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PSU Event to Explore Mash-Ups and Creative Appropriation

In the latest event from the Pomona Student Union, Professor Jonathan Lethem and UCLA law professor Doug Lichtman will discuss “Ownership in the Age of the Mash-Up.” The event takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. in Rose Hills Theatre (Smith Campus Center, 170 E. Sixth St., Claremont).

As technology has transformed creativity over the past 20 years, artists, musicians and writers sometimes wear their influences on their sleeves via mash-ups, remixes, fan fiction and other media, often citing fair use for creative appropriation of others’ art. Meanwhile, intellectual property owners call for legal restrictions and crack-downs on piracy on the internet.

The three panelists will discuss the legality and merit of these influenced works and the place they hold in our society, addressing the question: Where does inspiration end and plagiarism begin?

“I was drawn into this [general] discussion over a period of long time out of my instinctive sympathies with remix and appropriation in art and culture generally,” says Lethem, who wrote a seminal essay on the topic in 2007 (“The Ecstasy of Influence” in Harper’s Magazine).

“The debate seems to be polarized between extremes,” says Lethem, whose fiction he says bears influences and sources that might not always be apparent to readers. “Provocative piratical internet copyright enemies on one side--very exciting thoughts, but unrealistically outrageous--and a corporate, legal restrictive perspective, which seems to me suffocating and to tell all sorts of lies about how creativity actually occurs. I thought, maybe there’s a place for a more ordinary middle-class established creator to talk about what it's like from the middle.”

One result of the debate for Lethem is his Promiscuous Materials Project, wherein Lethem allows other creators to adapt some of stories for the cost of $1.

Doug Lichtman, a UCLA Professor of Law, focuses his teaching and research on topics relating to law and technology, including patent and copyright. Lichtman represented the Associated Press in the lawsuit against Shepard Fairey, the creator of the “Obama Hope” poster. Fairey used an AP image as the basis for the piece and claimed it was fair use, while AP claimed copyright infringement.

The Pomona Student Union was founded by students in 2003 to inspire open dialogue on campus through a series of challenging and intellectually diverse debates and events. For information on the Pomona Student Union or their events, visit their website.

Please note: Originally, Creative Commons CEO Joichi Ito was scheduled to appear but unfortunately, he is unable to attend.