Text: My Lawyer is an Artist

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MY LAWYER IS AN ARTIST: FREE CULTURE LICENSE AS ART MANIFESSTOS

Discussions around the influence of the free software philosophy on art tend to revolve around the role of the artist in a network community, and their relationship with so-called open source practices. The key in understanding the effect and interpretation of a free or open source work of art as a critical cultural practice. An important element to consider as an artist, that license plays as a conscious artistic choice. By doing so, the author allows their work to interface with a system inside which their production can be freely exchanged, modified and distributed. The freedom attached to a free work of art is not to be misunderstood with gratis and free of charge access to the creation, it means that once such a freedom is granted to a work of art, anyone is free to redistribute and modify it according to the rules provided by its license. There is no turning back then! It will have a life of its own, an autonomy granted by a specific freedom of use. As an artist and the work you create a kind of form of artist statement, possibly a manifesto. What are they standing for? What are the effects? What are the consequences?

This particular concept of freedom, as it is expressed in the manifesto, is focused on the users of software and its very usage. The license itself works as a constant reference to the manifesto, by the way it is affecting the software and its source code distribution. Every software distributed with the GPL becomes the manifestation of GNU, and the license preamble is nothing else but an alternative text paraphrasing the manifesto. GLP was specific for software, it did not take long for some people to see the opportunity to literally use, adapt the license for other forms of cultural expressions: ART.

Notions of openness and commons in an artistic setting, elements are: the call to turn legal and technological rules into a constrained art system; the reflection on the nature of collaboration and authorship in the networked economy the living archaeology of creative process by bringing traceability and transparency; and most importantly, the mark of an age of intellectual property and bureaucratic exaltation, which is pushing artist to develop their practice within the administrative structure of society, and further embed it in their creative process, even, it, in a paradoxical manner, it is done to object the techno-legal apparatus of the former.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the use and existence of such practices, with such manifesto-like contracts where form meets function, once the license is used and work published, it triggers a process of rationalisation that leads to the fragmentation of free art practices into different, and possible contradictory, things.

A toolkit for artist to expand their practices and free themselves form consumerist workflows.

A political statement against a shape shifting authoritarian entity.

A novel creative legal and technical framework to interface with and support existing copyright law practices

A lifestyle and sometimes fashionable statement to tag along the all things free and open.


Written by Aymeric Mansoux 2014