Appropriation Art Condemns Bill C-61
June 12, 2008
Many within the cultural community feared a draconian new legislation. Bill C-61 surpasses those fears. If passed Bill C-61 would make Canada the only democracy in history to have criminalized a recognized and legitimate art form. An art form criminalized not for its content, but for the process of its making. Today the Conservative Government erased much of the artistic discourse of the past 100 years. Today (with TPM’s) the Conservative Government locked Canadian culture firmly in the past.
It is safe to say that every important contemporary art collection in the world contains appropriation art of some form. Every anthology of contemporary art, every periodical, every textbook references and supports the practice of appropriation. And now, in Canada, willfully ignorant politicians have ruled that a time-honoured, artistic practice and art form will be rendered illegal. It is beyond shocking. It is embarrassing.
Copyright is meant to nurture the rights of creators not suppress and criminalize artistic practice. Copyright is meant to protect artistic work not define it. It is not the responsibility of any government to legislate art. Culture evolves through a dialogue between cultural institutions, educators, critics and creators - most of whom have dedicated their lives to culture. Culture also evolves through a relationship with an audience; in this case an audience who have proven again and again that work involving appropriation generates excitement …incites progress and change. Canadian artists who practice appropriation have been awarded our highest honours. How ironic.
Culture is not something that can be legislated, at least not in free countries, and not by Ministers who demonstrate neither knowledge nor interest in the national culture they apparently represent. Politicians who have no cultural sensitivity should clearly not be involved in making national cultural legislation. This Bill reflects nothing but contempt for freedom of expression, contemporary culture and those artists who practice it.
The implications of this legislation will be far reaching and disastrous. Bill C-61 extinguishes the voice of dissent. Fair dealing has all but been eliminated . Bill C-61 makes it illegal to access existing material, modify it, comment on it and/or publicly display it. Critcism, parody and satire under Bill C-61 become criminal acts. The whole of contemporary cultural content in Canada has been privatized. News and history will be placed in the private sector and availble only with permission. Think you’ll be granted permission to create anything that offends? Think again. And so we enter the era of government sanctioned art.
In his ‘Speech from the Throne’, Prime Minister Harper promised two things: he would provide strong leadership and he would defend Canadian sovereignty. Canadian Sovereignty is not simply real estate, it is the social and cultural values of a country. Freedom of Expression is core to these values. Freedom of Expression is at the heart of what it means to be Canadian. Bill C-61 was drafted under demands from the U.S. Government. and Content Industry lobbyists. Bill C-61was designed to bolster the flow of Canadian cultural dollars south of the border, dollars which now flow at a rate in excess of a billion dollars per year. Bill C-61 will create the litigeous environment that has seen, to date, 28,000 plus citizens at the wrong end of record industry lawsuits.
Bill C-61 is censorship shrouded in a veneer of spin. This ‘Made in Canada Copyright Policy’ has a hollow, shameful ring.