Creative Plundering with Mark Hosler

Mark Hosler spends a lot of time with lawyers. No, that doesn't mean he's rich; in fact, the truth is just the opposite. As a member of the social commentary-rich prankster collage band Negativland, he's been part of a scheme to falsely implicate its own music in a mass slaying, pranking the media all the way up to Rolling Stone. Soon after, the band found itself in a collosal legal battle against Island Records after issuing a single entitled "U2." That ditty, which scored the band a handy 15 minutes of notoriety, utilized the melody of the Irish superstars' song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" along with outtakes of American Top 40 host Casey Kasem throwing an expletive-laden hissy fit (see the book The Letter U and the Numeral 2 or the film Sonic Outlaws for full details on the battle Negativland fought against U2's publishers, U2's label, and eventually Negativland's own label). In the wake of these litigations, which cost the band a fortune in both money and time as well as the rights to some of their own material, Hosler has only increased his efforts as a crusader for the freedom of artists to sample and manipulate existing works for their own creative use. Basically, he says, Negativland has taken a page from Advertising 101 and turned the corporations' term "positioning" against them. In the advertising world, the term refers to succeeding financially by finding a target group for your product that is not already being serviced. After the Negativland/U2 war had gotten the band into the spotlight, he says that they "decided to exploit that opportunity as responsibly as we could" as they realized that "there [was] no one taking the position of advocating the ability of artists to collage" and creatively plunder existing works. Hosler will be hosting a dialog entitled Changing Copyright in which he will perform a song, show the never-before-seen video for "U2" and lecture on "intellectual properties, who owns your intellectual properties, and why we think they're wrong." Hosler holds no illusions that everyone in attendance will be in full agreement with his beliefs, and expects the discussion afterwards to be quite entertaining. He's also quick to point out that while he comes from an audio background, the issues discussed in Changing Copyright apply to all media.

Hosler also will be taking part in the Global Pillage panel (along with Survival Research Labs' Mark Pauline) where, among other things, he is expected to discuss the upcoming Dispeppsi album, in which Negativland expects to find itself once again embroiled in legal action, this time with the multinational corporation behind the band's "favorite soft drink." -- Ken Lieck

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