Dan Untitled

Dan Untitled is the stage name of Dr Dan James, a performer, curator, Open Source Film supporter and trustee of the Creative Freedom Foundation. He is also the co-host of Radio Active’s Messed Up, New Zealand’s longest running mashup show, and a member of the Bootie NZ mashup crew.

Dan holds a PhD in Fine Arts from Massey University, specialising in Mashup performance. In 2011, he performed ‘Breakfast Party in my Studio‘, a live audiovisual mashup piece, to the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. In 2012, Dan curated eleven different exhibitions for Radio Active’s Museum of Modern Activity, including Fair Deal, Interwoven (a 10 year retrospective of Alyx Duncan), and Having a Bit Too Much Fun (music videos of Simon Ward).

Earlier projects include Seance for Nam June Paik, 2008; Intimacy and In.yer.face, 2006; and Indeterminacy and Interface, 2005.

Screenshot from “The Wheel Between You and Me,” by Hollie Cooper, via Stray Cinema. Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence.

Dan first used Creative Commons licensing when he became involved with Stray Cinema, an international open source film project, in 2006. As Dan explains “Stray Cinema operates in rounds. For each round, footage is shot in a different city, with a different director. The first round was shot in London, by Michelle Hughes. She decided to license all of her raw, unedited footage, before she’d even made a film out of it. She wanted other people making their own stories out of the same material, concurrently to her making her own film.”

After Michelle released her raw footage on the Stray Cinema site, participants from all over the world re-edited her work. Afterwards, Michelle’s was shown alongside the top five participant films. This also occurred for the second round, with footage shot in Barcelona. The third round took place in 2012, with a screening to be held in Melbourne, later this year.

In 2006, Dan also became involved with UpStage, a web platform for live online performance, eventually helping to curate online UpStage festivals from 2008 to 2010. This platform is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike and, as Dan points out, “a lot of people using the platform Creative Commons license the visual and audio content of the works themselves.”

Breakfast Party at my Studio from Dan Untitled on Vimeo.

These days, Dan’s main involvement with Creative Commons licensing comes with his mashup projects, which he releases under a Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike licence. As he says, “Nowadays, any music I do, I’ll licence it under Creative Commons. Some might debate about licensing mashups as CC. In my mind, though, this is in line with my argument that a mashup is a unique creation. What I’m licensing is my combination, my mix of this plus this plus this, in this particular way, with all these tweaks and changes. I don’t release all the source material that I used to create it and the licence doesn’t apply to the source material.”

Dan likes to use Creative Commons licences “because of the flexibility. I want to be able to say outright, feel free to use this, however you want to use it. For my non-mashup work I also like the ability to be able to set tiers of how I want something to be used or not used.”

In November 2012, Dan curated an art show commissioned by the Fair Deal Coalition, which included several pieces made available under a Creative Commons licence, including Bronwyn Holloway-Smith’s Whisper Down the Lane (read a case study of Bronwyn). Run by InternetNZ, Fair Deal is a coalition of organisations seeking to prevent any changes to New Zealand law resulting from the ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Dan became involved with the Fair Deal Coalition because he was concerned with with how copyright law affects New Zealand artists. “I would,” Dan says, “like to see a lot more clarity about Fair Use and Fair Dealing, because that’s what impacts directly on my work. The current default when distributing work online is that you’re guilty until proven innocent… That’s not based on expert opinion, that’s based on a computer programme scanning the waveform of the visual content. As an artist, I find that really offensive.”

Dan points to the history of remix and reuse in  music. “There’s centuries of tradition in all creative fields of artists referencing each other’s work in various ways. The only difference is the technology.”

“It’s no different from a composer a couple of centuries ago lifting a whole section from somebody else’s composition and using it. The Baroque composer Handel is a good example – his work commonly quoted entire passages from other peoples’ compositions. There are countless examples of different artists appropriating the work of others, it’s been going on for centuries – it’s well accepted in all sorts of different mediums and artforms.”

You can read more of Dan’s thoughts about copyright, artists and the TPP in his introduction to the exhibition: Fair Deal: Copyright, the Public Domain and Fair Dealing in the New Zealand Creative Sector.

You can find more of Dan’s work on Vimeo and Soundcloud, or listen to Radio Active’s Mashup show.

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