Nothing that I’m about to say is a new idea, and that is beautiful.
We all know that art influences art. We are taught this in schools. We are taught to look for the influences one piece of art had on a particular movement, or for the effects that movement had on a piece of art that came later, and how it all fits into the political or historical context of the time. Art is interconnected, just as the human social experience is. But have we really grappled with this idea as a society? Not really.
The entire notion of “intellectual property” is an affront to the idea of art as interconnected. Ostensibly, it is there to protect artists from plagiarism, and allow them to make a profit off their work in a capitalist society. In actuality, it lets corporations control the flow of art and ideas. You cannot write a story about Spider-Man legally, because Spider-Man is owned by Disney. Doesn’t matter if your fan-fiction is better written and truer to the character than any Marvel movie or limited series, or if you take Spider-Man in a bold new direction that challenges our collective perception of the character. The writing, no matter if you make a profit off of it or not, is illegal. The actual writing and publishing of the story is against the law. Oh, to be sure, many companies have graciously allowed fan-fiction authors to continue writing their stories. Fandom drives profit, after all. But I can easily imagine a world in which that is not the case, and companies guard their collective intellectual property with even more jealously than they currently do.
There are people trying to change this, of course. The Creative Commons is such a movement, and has provided people with a host of different licensing options that allow others to build off each other’s work while still giving each other credit. As a legal loophole, its pretty useful. But its focus still clings to the individualist notion of intellectual property, of ideas as things that can be bought and sold for profit. It doesn’t reflect the reality: that the ideas and art we create are as much a part of our society as the actual people. Art is a living thing, and it changes as we do. Ideas are living things, and they evolve as we do.
Art and community are one and the same, and we should be working on ways to free our art from the capitalist class.
Anyway, that’s just some midnight thoughts I had.