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The marriage of technology and popular culture often produces deep change in the old framework associated with both the system that develops technology and culture itself. The effect of technology's cultural layer can be seen today in popular culture's reaction to the legal framework that regulates intellectual property, which has been shaken to its core by the tight relationship between digital technology and modern citizens. Google "copywrong" and you will see at least 210,000 mentions, including a blog, several posts, a Wired article, and many other reflections from old and new media that build a collective point of view on the matter.

The tools of new media are blurring the line between ideas and action, tacitly encouraging the communal enterprise. Intellectual work ceased to be an end in itself and is now more than ever part of the raw materials that fuel an ongoing creative cycle. In the words of artist Olaf Nicolai [see latest issue of opinions and culture magazine UOVO], copyright in the digital age “…eliminates the possibility of reflection, you are no longer able to think, to re-think or to re-distribute.” Nicolai compares the restrictive nature of today’s copyright laws with “…erasing the color red out of the color scale for a painting.”

Actors in the legal system itself recognize that “the future of copyright is up for grabs” as Lawrence B. Solum stated in a white paper published the Texas Law Review (2005). Solum explains that “we live in a magical, exhilarating, and frightening time: Many alternative copyfutures shimmer on the horizon, sometimes coming into sharper focus and sometimes fading away.”

Regardless of the evolution of the legal framework [which will most likely have to play an eternal catch-up with reality], the future of copyright can already be interpreted from the relationship between commercial communications and art. Culture Jam, Mash-ups, Remix Culture… the language already exists. Progressive brands like Nike embrace unofficial representations of its brand [Olaf Nicolai’s Big Sneaker (The Nineties) showed in Nike-Town] and take cues from street art to infuse a dose of modernity to the brand persona, sometimes applying the logic of street art itself.

[Robin Rhode. Wheel of Steel, 2006.]

Also in the latest issue of UOVO, Francois Quintin asked artist Robin Rhode about Nike’s unauthorized use of his artistic style: “One of the recent commercial advertisements for Nike is an obvious plagiarism of your work. It shows a teenager (even wearing a hat like your character) drawing a staircase on the floor, and acting as if he was making a skate jump from the top of it. What is your position towards this?”

…the artist reply: “JUST DO IT.”

Nike’s Paul Rodriguez chalk stair jump ad.


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I couldn't agree more with "in an age of ubiquitous product parity, a legitimate (and possibly the most powerful differential) for a brand to leverage are its values. In the absence of any values there's not much to really talk about and this may well explain why so much advertising is rubbish. Its just talk."

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