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The Digerati Strike Back

By Kenneth Goldsmith

A


It was bound to happen: based on Paul Zukofsky’s recent draconian copyright comments, the digerati have struck back and posted a fully indexed, OCR’d PDF of A.

Comments (55)

  • On October 25, 2009 at 11:50 am john wrote:

    What a sad situation.

    According to composer Milton Babbitt in 2001, Paul Zukofsky, after a career devoted to performing, as a violin virtuoso, and conducting contemporary American music, “has nothing now,” and, because of health problems, has no longer been able to perform. Maybe he needs the money.
    http://newmusicbox.org/page.nmbx?id=32fp10

    Whether the courts would agree with his narrow interpretation of “fair use” remains to be seen. From what I recall of J. D. Salinger’s court battle over quotations from unpublished, archived writings, I would guess that PZ is correct about unpublished materials. But I’m not sure how “fair use” works for published material. If I recall correctly, Irving Berlin successfully prevented the quotation of music or lyrics from his songs in any publication while he was alive; and, like the people Zukofsky is addressing, the people who wanted to quote Berlin mainly intended it as an act of homage. Now, of course, you can find any Berlin lyric for free on the internet.

    • On October 27, 2009 at 8:36 am Dirk Johnson wrote:

      In the cases of Berlin and Salinger, it was their own work in question. In this case, it’s the son of the poet. I’m sympathetic toward Paul Zukofsky’s need for money. But I think he’s going about it backwards.

      And, though I’ve bought multiple copies of everything by Louis Zukofsky that’s been published, I won’t be accessing the pirated digital download. But the presence of the digital download itself demonstrates my belief that Mr. Paul Zukofsky could make more money by helping to promote his father’s works than by trying to stop them from being quoted.

      On the other hand, maybe this whole thing was orchestrated in order to get some publicity for the inadequately recognized master of American poetry, Louis Zukofsky. I’ve often tried to get discussions going about the poet and to promote his work. The tempest after Paul Zukofsky’s copyright statement is the most talk I’ve ever heard about the great Louis Zukofsky.

      The free digital download might even result in more sales. After all, people who like books aren’t generally content with a pdf version of something and those who are probably wouldn’t buy the book anyway. Great promotional gimmick, if that’s what it is. My hat is off.

  • On October 25, 2009 at 3:29 pm Brennen wrote:

    John says: “Maybe he needs the money.”

    Yeah, but I wonder if smoking every quoter out of his hole is going to make him go broke.

  • On October 25, 2009 at 10:27 pm john wrote:

    Brennen,

    Good question! I have no idea. Not defending his approach here, just got curious about him, having remembered reading that he was a hot classical violinist.

    • On October 26, 2009 at 9:25 am Jordan wrote:

      It’s not a fiercely competitive field with dozens of reasonably good performers to choose from, but PZ’s certainly a listenable interpreter of 20th century composers. The Shapey and Sessions discs he sells are worth having, for example. I wouldn’t recommend his Sonatas and Partitas unless you collect everybody’s versions, though.

  • On October 25, 2009 at 11:11 pm Vivek Narayanan wrote:

    At the moment, 38 seeds and 57 peers–not bad, not bad at all! Beats some popular movies out.

    • On October 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm Don Share wrote:

      It doesn’t help that, at least as of this writing, the book isn’t in print.

  • On October 26, 2009 at 10:22 am Jeannette wrote:

    I regret to say that it looks like the PDF has been taken down.

  • On October 26, 2009 at 1:15 pm Caravaggio wrote:

    Well he certainly isn’t trying to make friends. P. Zukovsky’s tone seems way, WAY out of line, no? Actually, I might be inclined to sympathize with him in some small way had he made the important distinction between folks using his father’s words/intellectual property and folks using his father’s words/intellectual property FOR PROFIT. P. Zukovsky seems to have anger toward scholars doing scholarly work on his father’s career. Well, most scholars don’t publish their dissertations as books–and of the ones who do, very, very few profit financially. Same thing with publications in academic journals and lit mags–hardly anyone’s making a living off the scholarship they publish. And I would venture a guess that there isn’t anyone out there getting rich off their Zukovsky scholarship.

    Those who are actually profiting to some degree from work they do that quotes LZ, then, must by law honor the copyright and pay whatever the fee is (within reason and in keeping with what the typical fees are for that kind of thing; I actually don’t know). I think very few of us who lurk on Harriet, especially those of us who are writers, would quarrel with that. But P. Zukovsky seems to not even want his dad’s name mentioned in print, let alone quoted, without gettin’ paid! Seems like a better approach for him might’ve been to make nice with those who wish to study his dad’s work; to scorn them with such meanness, and to call the profession of literary studies a ‘so called’ profession, makes him come off like a crazy person.

  • On October 26, 2009 at 6:52 pm Ben.Harper wrote:

    I guess you could call Paul Zukofsky’s attitude to Fair Use ironic, given that he’s quoted by his father in “A” pointing out that most of the poem is lifted from other sources.

  • On October 27, 2009 at 3:23 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >I regret to say that it looks like the PDF has been taken down.

    Looks like the old ways still kind of rule…

    But a question: Why can’t the whole book be put up on UbuWeb? That way, should there be a legal threat, Ubuweb can just resist and take the issue to the wall.

    I mean, why not host a test case on literary “theft” *within the digital property lines* of those who make the case for the aesthetic and ethical values of theft?

    Instead of being half-hearted about it, that is, and putting the theft up elsewhere?

    • On October 27, 2009 at 3:37 pm Jordan wrote:

      Is that gauntlet I smell?

      • On October 27, 2009 at 4:21 pm Teri G. wrote:

        Nope. Pissing match.

  • On October 27, 2009 at 11:40 pm john wrote:

    Kent,

    I like your suggestion, that Mr. G. post the pdf under his own auspices, since he has advocated for the value of theft, and UbuWeb states that it “posts much of its content without permission; we rip out-of-print LPs into sound files; we scan as many old books as we can get our hands on; we post essays as fast as we can OCR them.”

    But I do have one reservations about your comment: you accuse Mr. G. of being half-hearted for posting the pdf elsewhere. Do you have evidence that he did it? An unsupported accusation — especially one made so confidently — is unfriendly.

    It’s really too bad that “A” is out of print.

  • On October 28, 2009 at 9:16 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    That’s correct, John. I assumed too much there.

    Who really knows, after all, how many secret cells “Al-Digerati” has? No doubt there must be autonomous formations who follow the Leader’s philosophical communiques and undertake actions anterior to the Spiritual-Combat center’s awareness.

    But my questions to the Leader in his ether-redoubt (I think it’s in Princeton at the moment)stand.

    Here’s one more: Why *not* take this thoroughly unusual, brimming opportunity to strike a major symbolic blow and boldly put the Conceptual money where the mouth is?

  • On October 28, 2009 at 10:16 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    No doubt I got carried away a bit in the above comment!

    Sorry about that.

    But the concluding question is still reasonable, I believe.

  • On October 28, 2009 at 12:17 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    every other occupation has websites devoted to their work and its issues,

    so I assume there must be sites where thieves congregate to celebrate their illegal acts—

    please can’t you restrict this one to poets,

    and let the thieves go gloat and glorify themselves on their own “theftsites”?—

    if Mr. Zukofsky starts a legal fund to help sue the crooks stealing his copyrighted property, I’ll contribute to it—

    • On October 28, 2009 at 2:04 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      2nd the motion. What is this, Gossip World Reality Show? Poetry Celebrity Dirt-dish Review?

      Go away, po-biz marketeers.

  • On October 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Dear Senores Gouldbars and Quipoknotts,

    Until you gentlemen come and offer us a watertight Yellow-Submarine definition of the POET, one that makes us slap our brows and shout “OF COURSE! Why didn’t I pay more attention to Messrs. Gouldbars and Quipoknott’s handwringing Neo-neo-Platonism all this Harriet time?”, well, I’m afraid that someone like Kenny Goldsmith has just as much right to post here as either one of you do.

    • On October 28, 2009 at 4:03 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      The poet is a maker, not an operator.

      • On October 28, 2009 at 4:07 pm Michael wrote:

        What’s the difference?

  • On October 28, 2009 at 5:31 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >The poet is a maker, not an operator.

    Oh, that won’t do, Henry.

    It’s true that some poets, in the po-biz sense, are more earnest and/or expert “operators” than others, but show me a poet who isn’t an “operator,” to some degree or other, and I’ll show you, with an astronomical formula, how Joanne Kyger’s poetry will without question prove more lasting than Robert Frost’s. (That’s a joke made from a pronouncement at Silliman’s blog today, btw.)

    In any case, in the poetic sense, as well, there is no clear divide in poetry between “making” and “operating,” the last understood as (inevitably) negotiating and assembling what is given to us from the tradition.

    Remember Eliot? He wrote a famous essay on that once. I mention him because I know you like him.

    • On October 28, 2009 at 7:27 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      Eliot. Right, & the Devil quotes Scripture, too.

      The poet is a maker, not a skimmer.

  • On October 28, 2009 at 7:03 pm Colin Ward wrote:

    Kent,

    come and offer us a watertight Yellow-Submarine definition of the POET

    show me a poet who isn’t an “operator,”

    As you wish.

    -o-

  • On October 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm john wrote:

    In audio-land, books and magazines devoted to audio-theft have been around for decades. Mr. G. follows in their footsteps and, it seems to me, makes no bones about that.

    Sampling was going on in pop and jazz in the ’60s — think of how much the Beatles would have to pay in licensing fees in order to make “Revolution 9″ (which I love, btw) today. The great Charlie Haden (Ornette Coleman’s original bassist) was using samples on jazz records by the end of the ’60s. And of course Cage was doing it for decades before that.

    I did a collage soundtrack for a friend’s experimental film back in ’89, before I’d heard of De La Soul. I was doing collage poetry back in ’83. Thinking, you know, about Picasso and Rauschenberg and Cage. Nothing new about it.

    The Sherrie-Levine-esque wrinkle of copying whole artworks and signing them anew seems like a move made for the dust-covered curators, which, in historical terms, is the opposite of an avant-garde attitude. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — to steal a famous line.

  • On October 28, 2009 at 7:16 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    can’t see how Eliot quoting a few lines from ancient poets justifies stealing anyone’s legally copyrighted material . . .

    is the Obama poster/AP lawsuit apropos?

  • On October 28, 2009 at 9:14 pm Bill Knott wrote:

    why stop at Zukofsky? if you permit the publishing of his work without permission of the copyright holder,

    who’s next, Auden? screw Edward Mendelson and the other executors of the Auden estate… is that your goal?

    I’d love to put out a p-o-d chapbook of Larkin’s 29 sonnets, so Monica Jones can bite it, is that what you’re telling me? . . .

    Andrew Lloyd Webber should sue Valerie Eliot to get back the “Cats” royalties he paid her, according to you, right? Is that what you’re saying?

    I realize the copyright laws are made by legislators paid graft by Disney and giant media congloms who want to extend them for commercial greed,

    but so are all the other laws they pass—

    • On October 29, 2009 at 10:18 am Matt wrote:

      It’s nice to see someone stand up for Disney for a change. Good job.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 8:47 am Bill Knott wrote:

    >>>
    it’s strange, this furor and anger directed by Goldsmith and the other avanties at Paul Zukofsky for asserting his ownership under the copyright laws—

    isn’t he simply claiming what others enjoy, other heirs of literary estates?

    why is he any different, any less entitled than the heirs of Robert Lowell?

    (I’d love to publish a volume where all of Lowell’s “imitations” were collated chronologically with notes, but!)

    I know the reaction to Paul Zukofsky has something to do with the history of avantgarde esthetics and its bizarre delusions of outlawry—

    or perhaps the contempt and disregard directed at him has other historical precedents, left over from eras when a Zukofsky was granted less rights than a Lowell——

    no, it’s probably not antisemitism, per se,

    but rather the outrage felt toward a traitor to one’s cause—

    our comrade has betrayed us, the avanties cry,

    hurt by what they feel is disloyalty to the holy tenets

    of their faith . . . they feel wounded by his, Paul Zukofsky’s, renunciation

    of their sacred creed …

    As always the faithful hate an apostate more an unbeliever,

    a heretic more than a heathen.

    ….

  • On October 29, 2009 at 11:03 am Henry Gould wrote:

    These celebrated rip-offs & remakes & reproductions, the whole Conceptual schtick that art is not about making, it’s about positioning -

    it all strikes me as especially & consciously ANTI-poetic. It is diametrically opposed to the idea that, in the sphere of art, originality is inherent & necessary.

    & why is originality so fundamental? It’s not simply a consequence of individualism, or copyright laws. It has to do with the relationship between originality and invention. Originality is the sign of something distinct, unique, and new. This originality of invention, which undergirds the new shape, figure or structure displayed in an authentic work of art, is what is primarily responsible, is the driving motor, for invigorating & bringing to life ALL the materials out of which the work is made (in the case of poetry, words, speech).

    So to make a mockery of this dimension is, as I see it, a kind of parasitical attack on the work of poets & poetry itself.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 11:22 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Actually, I believe I accurately described this phenomenon on digital emunction some time back: antipoetry.

    http://www.digitalemunction.com/2009/10/01/charles-the-first/

    Are you trying to steal my idea, Henry

    • On October 29, 2009 at 11:28 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      ?

    • On October 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      I missed that, Gary, but I’ll gladly withdraw my copyright claim to that term, for what it’s worth, in your favor. I’ll have my people call your people.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >it all strikes me as especially & consciously ANTI-poetic. It is diametrically opposed to the idea that, in the sphere of art, originality is inherent & necessary.

    Henry, sorry, but those notions/assumptions in your last comment are ones largely emerging out of the Romantic period (which still obviously impacts our own– “We’re all still Romantics,” as Harold Bloom’s long claimed).

    But there are whole eras of poetry, in our own and in various other cultures, where the notion of “originality” is in no way “inherent or necessary,” or where it’s had profoundly different meanings than it’s had in the West over the last couple centuries. There are whole traditions, in fact, that near outright reject Romantic notions of artistic autonomy. I’m surprised, frankly, that you’re making this fairly obvious error.

    Not that this has much to do with the matter of our own Conceptualist “moment”…

    • On October 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      Kent, maybe you could provide an example of some substantial poetry from any era, which is not original, which does not remake its sources into a distinctly new thing.

      • On October 29, 2009 at 3:07 pm john wrote:

        I agree with Henry. Originality — newness — is key. Romanticism implies an ideology of artist-over-art, of individualism and artistic autonomy, and, while we’re still very much in an era of Romantic individualism, I can think of many substantial works in which the individual style of the artist is not paramount, and yet the artwork is powerful and original, if only in its original context. Cathedral gargoyles and individual frames of Disney cartoons exhibit terrific skill and craftspersonship but typically try to efface individuality of the artist’s style, while contributing to a unique whole made by a collective. Our Romantic ideology is so anxious about this that our culture invented the idea of the auteur in order to create a heroic film artist on which we could project our Romantic fantasies, but films remain a fantastically (usually corporate) collective art form.

        Sherrie-Levine-esque moves are hyper-Romantic, all about the uniqueness of the artist’s insight, or idea; and even if they’re not-very-interesting spins on a Duchampian idea, they aspire to Romantic genius.

        Copyright law is over-onerous. Music written 100 years ago by Charles Ives, who died more than 55 years ago, is still under copyright. That’s crazy.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 12:23 pm Colin Ward wrote:

    Henry,

    it all strikes me as especially & consciously ANTI-poetic.

    FWIW, the first time I encountered the term “antipoetric” it described Michael Ondaatje’s famous “Sweet like a Crow”. The term wasn’t being used as a pejorative.

    It is diametrically opposed to the idea that, in the sphere of art, originality is inherent & necessary.

    Fascinating. There is, of course, the cliché collage, typically (but not exclusively) employed with humourous intent.

    Also FWIW, Dutch poet Martijn Benders once replicated an entire poem verbatim, changing only its title, to show the importance of context.

    -o-

    • On October 29, 2009 at 1:59 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      Colin,
      “anti-poetic”, yes, has been a term used in various ways, positive & negative… maybe the most familiar positive example is Nicanor Parra (though I wonder if he would call his trademark “anti-poetry”, anti-poetic). I’m using it in a particular way here.

      As to your 2nd point : yes, on occasion real poets writing real poetry will parody, echo, maybe even, in unusual cases, “replicate”, as you suggest. Much authentic & great poetry is in dialogue & sometimes close revision of what has gone before.

      I see this as different from the programmatic rejection (by the “Conceptualists” & their ilk) of the compositional processes of invention & design which result in actual new poetry.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    by the way, Colin, thanks for that link. Fascinating. Didn’t know that case.

    The exception that makes the rule?

  • On October 29, 2009 at 12:52 pm Don Share wrote:

    Some possibly related reading, about trying to quote from James Joyce:

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/september28/shloss-joyce-settlement-092809.html

  • On October 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Henry, now you’re changing the terms! Don’t be a sophist. Arguing for “new things” in poetry, new things that are “remade from source materials,” is very different from arguing for the poet’s individual, vatic “originality” as some kind of sacred first principle. In fact, the idea that poetry is defined by the “remaking of source materials into a new thing” is so catch-all as to be absurd.

    Duchamp’s shovel was a “new thing.” But its relation to the concept of originality, as you are framing the notion, is pretty problematic to say the least.

    As to your challenge that I name different attitudes towards “originality,” as these manifest in other cultures and times (you seem to feel there is nothing of the sort, that Romantic ontology is all we ever had), well, what can I say? I don’t know… Read the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry?

    • On October 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      Changing the terms? Here’s what I said, a few inches to the north from here :

      “Originality is the sign of something distinct, unique, and new. This originality of invention, which undergirds the new shape, figure or structure displayed in an authentic work of art, is what is primarily responsible, is the driving motor, for invigorating & bringing to life ALL the materials out of which the work is made (in the case of poetry, words, speech).”

      I, for one, don’t consider Duchamp’s shovel very impressive as a work of art. It’s a conceptual stunt, not a new (formal, material) embodiment of a new idea.

      & so out of all these eras on either side of Romantic individualism, you can’t give me an example of a strong work of art which is not original? Sorry Kent – pretty lame on your part.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 3:55 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >I, for one, don’t consider Duchamp’s shovel very impressive as a work of art. It’s a conceptual stunt, not a new (formal, material) embodiment of a new idea…& so out of all these eras on either side of Romantic individualism, you can’t give me an example of a strong work of art which is not original? Sorry Kent – pretty lame on your part.

    Duchamp’s shovel.

    • On October 29, 2009 at 10:10 pm john wrote:

      Duchamp’s shovel *is* original — and very Romanticist in its elevation of the individual artist’s signature to being the guarantor of art. One might argue that Duchamp’s move critiques the Romantic fetishization of the individual’s signature, but the museums, Sherrie Levine (in practice if not in theory), and the art historians agree with my take on it.

      When I was a teenager at the Philly Museum (largest repository of Duchampiana), reading the card describing how Duchamp enjoyed spinning the bicycle wheel that he had mounted on a stool, I gave the wheel a spin.

      I got in trouble.

      • On October 29, 2009 at 10:29 pm Henry Gould wrote:

        Yeah? But it’s a shovel. Did Duchamp do any scrimshaw along the handle? I sincerely doubt it.

        I like shovels for shoveling; that’s a wonderful thing. i have shoveled a great deal in my life, with a regular shovel.

        If I had to choose between Duchamp’s shovel (& all the baloney shoveled around & about it) or one worn-out cheap waterlogged crumbling paperback by Henry James or [name yr poet]… now there’s an objet d’art.

        • On October 30, 2009 at 3:13 am john wrote:

          Henry — leave aside aesthetics for a moment, and think about ka-ching ka-ching — investment, yeah yeah yeah. A Duchamp signature is worth a *lot* more than a James ppbk.

          Bringing aesthetics back — yes, there’s no arguing with one’s individual response. Like the old folks say, it’s all good.

          “Duchamp” would be an *excellent* brand name for a fashion line, on the borderline between fashion and anti-fashion; the Duchamp designers would take any found clothing — Sears clothing, say, take off the labels, put new “Duchamp” labels on, and go to town!

        • On October 30, 2009 at 9:55 am Matt wrote:

          “I like shovels for shoveling”

          Good for you! You sound like a regular Joe Six-Plumber. Are you running for president?

          • On October 30, 2009 at 10:44 am Henry Gould wrote:

            & you sound so much like a garden-variety snide poet! Have you ever lifted anything heavier than an hors-d’oeuvres toothpick?

            • On October 30, 2009 at 7:47 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

              Man…you guys can sure shovel it on.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 4:00 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Here you go, Henry, on the topic:

    http://jacketmagazine.com/32/k-kent.shtml

    Kent

    • On October 29, 2009 at 4:05 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      Thanks for the link, Kent. To replicate myself : I’m not all that impressed by Duchamp’s shovel. Maybe it’s just me.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 4:03 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    On the necessity for invention, and originality as its expression – full disclosure : my father is a (semi)retired patent attorney.

    My brothers & I flew a prototype of the frisbee (from Whammo! Corp., one of my father’s clients) in the back yard, about 50 yrs ago.

  • On October 29, 2009 at 8:09 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    So let me ask once more to U.S. poetry’s leading advocate of literary “theft,” and then I’m out:

    Why not post the PDF of “A” on UbuWeb?

  • On October 29, 2009 at 10:21 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    So kindly Sir Uncle Kentameter abandones the field once more, with his sweet abject workingman’s solidarity tail tucked between his legs… Henry snarling in his quatrain cage…& as silence continues to reign on high, in the exalted American Fox’s lair of Professional-Conceptual Hobnobbery…

    Happy Halloween!


Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, October 25th, 2009 by Kenneth Goldsmith.