Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fight The Gagacracy

Y'know the show Dungeon Majesty?*

Maybe you don't. It's a fun DIY show about some people playing D&D.

Well now there's this Sci-Fi show by the same people, called "Multinauts", and Lady Gaga's new video looks EXACTLY like it. Like blatant. Even Lady Gaga fans admit it's blatant. And, no the crazy kids who made Multinauts did not get paid.

Jennifer Jason Stratford, who put the thing together...
It only takes one view of the new Lady Gaga video "Born this Way" to be convinced that she pilfered the Multinauts. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Lady Gaga you and your people should know that I made the Multinauts with every last cent I had. I spent a year and half in front of my computer trying to push the limits of special effects so that I could transport the viewers to other realms. Now that you have stolen from me, I feel I should tell you that I am not part of your research and development team. Out of respect I ask you to recognize the Multinauts publicly, an unfunded science fiction show, made by a small group of artists and completed by one woman on one computer.

This isn't conjecture. It's completely obvious. Watch the videos.

I will now make the obvious and boring jokes for you:

-Gee, that website is sparkly! Ouch my eyes hurt now! LOL!!!
-Lady Gaga is never original hawhawhaw
-Dude! Battlestar Galactica called, it wants it's _____ back....HEEHAW!

I will now also make the obvious, turn-0f-the-century post-Bush oh-why-bother postmodern whine for you:

-In an age of rampant sampling and....blah blah blah, everything is stolen, we play retroclones blahblah

Fuck all that. If a basically completely obscure artist can have a year and a half's worth of design and technical work completely copied by a rich, famous artist and/or the drones she employs in complete public and for anyone with an internet connection to see then basically art as a profession will soon no longer be viable (and no dumb jokes about that please), and we will cease getting art from anyone who isn't already rich.

As someone whose entire life would be impossible without people realizing I have intellectual property rights (that is, as a professional artist who gets to make way more art because I have time to do it 'cause I'm not working at Taco Bell anymore) I'm completely behind Jennifer here.

And you should be too. Maybe Jennifer can't afford to take on the Gagacracy's lawyers, but it is possible to make such a big deal about this that the internet notices. Tell people. Tell the web. Tell dorks. Help make it an embarrassing big deal to casually rip off other peoples' hard work to the tune of millions of dollars.

*Irony department: I first heard about Dungeon Majesty when the guy who hired us to do "I Hit It With My Axe" was accused of copying them. Which was apparently the first he'd heard of Dungeon Majesty, too. But whatever.


  1. Jennifer and Riley are cornerstones of the high media fantastic here in L.A. It sucks to to see Lady Gaga shit on them like this.

    At least Hasbro paid Riley for the 4e commercial they "appropriated" from him.

  2. Discuss

  3. @volpone

    other than the triangle, I don't see it.

  4. There's a world of difference between sampling or homage or 'influenced by' and f***ing ripping someone off because you're out of ideas.

    (says an internet meatblob who just posted something that was half-a-rip off of one of Zak's ideas. Erm, oops...)

    But then what else can we expect of an artist^H^H^H^H^H^H extruded media product who has based her entire schtick off 70s-era Bowie?

    ...and we will cease getting art from anyone who isn't already rich.

    So, not a fan of the patronage system then?
    *brace for sh*tstorm*

  5. Wow. Gaga blows for this.

    Also, Dungeon Majesty ruled.

  6. We used to keep the Dungeon Majesty D20 sequence cued up on laptops for when we rolled crits.

    It would be a coup of a PR move if Gaga gave credit/compensation. I don't give a shit about modern pop music/ians, but it would still be a good move.

  7. @chris
    "So, not a fan of the patronage system then?
    *brace for sh*tstorm* "

    Um, shitstorm? Why?

  8. @Zak: You're a man with strong opinions about art and the place of the artist as autonomous agent. I imagined the idea of 'the artist pandering to the requirements of a philistine with money' would be one you regard with displeasure.

    /end derailment

  9. The song itself is basically lifted directly from Madonna (Express Yourself). I'd guess maybe she's doing all this blatant plagiarism fully consciously, for whatever reason, post-modern or otherwise.

  10. @chris

    I do, but I don't see how that fantastically popular opinion should start a shitstorm. (Nor do I see what that has to do with the situation here: a rich artist stealing from a poor one.)

  11. Posted to Facebook. Intellectual property rights do matter, especially given that the original artist has spoken out.

    @ravenconspiracy: THANKS for the link, Dungeon Majesty does indeed RULE!

    @Spawn: Yes, what few Gaga videos I've seen suggest that she is quite deliberately ripping off, er, repurposing Madonna's work in a big way. Maybe not such a big deal to Madge, though, I don't suppose.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. I think lady kaka has official jumped the shark, that video is truly terrible. Jen Stratford should honestly look to legal council cause she might just have a chance. A little over ten years ago Madonna ripped of the photoworks of french photographer Guy Bourdin for one of her videos, that she got her ass royally sued and had to pay out a cool million to his estate.

  14. I like her music and work, even this video - but this is really fucking disappointing. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

  15. @temujin9

    accusing Jennifer of making these accusations as a marketing ploy is questioning her motives and gets you deleted.

    You want to pull that on her blog, go ahead, but I won't host bullshit here. If you like lying, you have the whole rest of the internet to lie on.

  16. If it is a marketing ploy, mad props.

  17. Lady Kaka will probably never willingly pay Jenifer, but I'm dead sure she had to fork over some bucks to Madonna as " born this way" is basically "express yourself" all over again.

    No wonder lady Kaka she said it took her only ten minutes to write it, the song was already written over twenty years ago.

  18. I'm sorry but I don't see it. This isn't an accusation or anything like that. I just don't see it.

    Art is hardly original, even when it is. This isn't a postmodern "everything is a ripoff" argument. I have created so many things in isolation only to later discover someone else had done things that were freakishly similar to my own work you could have called them a ripoff.

    Looking at the videos I only see at most two elements that are *superficially similar*. Vague enough to be accidental.

    Now, I'm all for justice and respecting intellectual property and stuff and if it was "stolen" it would be only right for Gaga's TEAM (as if she makes her own videos, are you kidding me?) to acknowledge it and maybe to give Jeniffer some money or maybe hire the Multinauts team. Yes, I'm ALL for that. If.

    The problem is, I simply do not see the "blatant" copying that people are ranting about. I simply don't, sorry.

  19. I've never watched Multinauts before and I've seen almost nothing about Lady Gaga other than a interview by Barbara Walters. I am not vested in any way with either side.

    I think it is very poor form for one person to intentionally duplicate another person's work without being willing to acknowledge the latter's influence. To the extent that Lady Gaga has done this, I think she deserves to be criticized and perhaps boycotted.

    I do not think that ideas or expressions thereof can be owned. I don't think copying is theft. I think that "intellectual property" laws are nothing but grants of monopoly enforced at the public's expense. I think these laws do more to stifle innovation than encourage it. I think that, as with many laws, their primary effect is to concentrate wealth in the hands of the wealthy. For these reasons, I think legal protections of "IP" are unjust.

    Jennifer should be acknowledged for her work and I hope that, should she wish to do so, she can find a means to profit by it. I don't think she is entitled to any profit or exclusivity for her creation, all the more so when that entitlement comes at our expense of those who've not agreed to grant it.

  20. @maasentodt

    We do not live in a utopia, but the current sytem works like this:

    no IP law means the artist has no money, no money means the artist gets a day job (to eat), day job means the artist makes less art PLUS if the artist does make art she's accused of copying the rich, already popular artist who has popularized her ideas.

    So, in the current non-utopia and in Jennifer's case: less IP = less art.

    If you have a scheme by which our non-utopia can be instantly converted into a utopia, or by which, at least locally, Jennifer's art ideas help her (i.e. allow her to make more work) rather than HURT her (i.e. waste a year and a half making something which will now only be seen as derivative of Lady Gaga videos and make art-distribution and reimbursement power centers less likely to want to show her) than both I and her are all ears.

    I like Crass. I let people use my pictures in all kinds of ways without paying me, but I do not let plutocrats do it. Not even for a second.

  21. @gregor

    Have you watched the entire Multinauts series?

  22. @temujin9

    Counter-arguments I got no problem with, even "strongly-worded" ones.

    Inaccuracy I have a huge problem with, and insults against innocent people I have an extremely huge problem with.

    If a person says "I think x because of y" and you say "You actually are just claiming to think x for motive z" then you are accusing that person of lying. It is a direct insult, and you have no evidence to back it up.

  23. This sort of thing was a crock of shit when Warhol was doing it to whoever designed the Campbell's Soup can and it's continued to be a crock of shit throughout the entire time I've been aware of Gaga's career as "someone who wears other people's ideas like she owned somehow them".

    The idea that YOU are a technician but I am an artist when I do the exact same thing because I've got the establishment fawning over me is something that all the truly bankrupt painters/sculptors/performers lean on very heavily.

    That fucking prick Hirst is another one. He even pays the frigging technician to pickle the damn shark for him. His own contribution amounts to having the nerve to pretend that taxidermy doesn't exist and that he's single handedly invented the idea of putting a big fish in a glass case, despite the contrary evidence in pretty well every English countryside pub.

    The art establishment is nothing more than the collection of the most successful and highly paid media whores of their particular generation. I'd shit on their pathetic notions of art if it wasn't for the fact that they'd probably welcome me in as one of their own for such a "daring" piece of art - ie, doing something everyone else has been doing for the whole of time.


  24. @ Zak

    I don't think that abandoning the concept of "intellectual property" requires a utopia, but simply a recognition that it is primarily a means by which plutocrats plunder the public. That recognition may or may not come before the decentralizing nature of advancing technology renders the enforcement of IP law to be futile (I would guess the latter). Either way, I think it's not only possible, but something that we may well see in our lifetime.

    I think there many methods by which content creators can continue to operate (even as a full time profession) in a world sans IP, but I wouldn't suggest that the transition would be easy for everyone, nor that everyone would be successful in making that transition. However, I don't think that the possible lack of future success of any individual or group of individuals in a given business can justify the continuation of any injustice - all the more so when that injustice punishes as many peopole as current IP schemes do.

  25. @maasentodt

    So you have no transition plan?

    In light of that, my current attitude towards IP in this particular narrow case (Gaga V. Jennifer) punishes the wicked, rich person and rewards the just, poor person, so I am sticking with it.

    Like: if I didn't believe in taxes but I could send someone to prison on tax evasion after they raped a girl scout and got away with it, I'd do it. Fuck principle.

    Until utopia comes, we all gotta make do with the justice we got.

  26. Yes, Crass, exactly. People who are mad at Crass for trying to be the people who are continuing to profit off the recordings they made, and people who think "fairs fair" regarding Multinauts and Gaga, are cut from the same cloth. And they are both wrong.

    It is REALLY funny that a song about being "born this way," is so absolutely constructed.

  27. @Nagora

    Andy Warhol was just a guy with a day job once, you know. Doing, hey, exactly what the soup can guy was doing. Kind of a different story.

  28. @ Zak

    I don't have a transitional plan per se. I think that, in every cause, the means have to be consistent with the desired end for a goal to be reached. Because my end goal is the decentralization of power, I think that any plan imposed from above would be detrimental, not least because a free market in ideas will produce better solutions than I can.

    Having said that, I can think of a number of actions that people are taking that are advancing the cause. On the side of defeating IP schemes, these include educational efforts, file sharing, and use of proxy services like Tor. On the side of finding ways for artists to be successful without relying upon IP, there is (as I'd guess you know at least as well as I) much on-going experimentation with subscriptions, chip-in's, etc. I think these actions and many others help, to various degrees, in delegitimizing IP and building workable alternatives.

    While I reject the legitimacy of the existing system of courts and prisons, I can certainly understand people trying to use existing legal methods of obtaining justice. I don't hold any grudge against people using what means are available for dealing with rapists and other criminals but, at the same time, I do work to educate them that (1) the current paradigm is completely broken and, at least as often as not, works against the cause of justice, and (2) that there are alternatives that hold the potential for doing a much better job.

    I do see a difference between the case of a rapist assaulting a child and the case of Lady Gaga copying another person's artistic expression. That is, while I do think a person can justly claim ownership of their life and liberty, I don't think that anyone can justly claim ownership of an idea or an expression thereof. Thus, while I understand the rape victim seeking whatever justice they can find in the courts, it's harder for me to condone any legal action taken by Jessica, since I think whatever rights she might claim have been aggrieved are artificial ones granted by a corrupt and broken system.

  29. Wait, you're saying that there's an alternative way to deal with rapists and other criminals than using the current system? What is it? Vigilantism? Loudly telling people off? Letting them get away with it?

  30. @mmasentodt

    The point is, under the current regime, if you don't have IP you make less art or starve to death.

    Solve that one for Jennifer or be quiet.

  31. I'm with Zak. Any doubts I had about the necessity of some sort of IP law were resolved by Jaron Lanier's book "You Are Not A Gadget". He shows point by point how "IP wants to be free" quickly leads to a world where there's much less art created.

  32. Without IP, you make less art. Even if that’s true, I’m perfectly OK with that trade-off. I’m not sure that I believe in no IP laws, but I feel what we currently have is too restrictive and wrong.

    My experience fits with Baen Books’, though. Counter-intuitive though it may be.

  33. @Robert

    if you're ok with that trade-off, then get the hell away from me.