I like seeing my work in respectable publications like the North Coast Journal and the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and on popular websites like LoCO, but there’s something unique, and uniquely satisfying about the way I present my work on my blog, Like You’ve Got Something Better To Do (www.lygsbtd.wordpress.com). I don’t make any money from my blog, but I also don’t spend any money to produce it, and even though I have other outlets for my work, I still enjoy putting it together, as a labor of love, for the thousands of people who come back to read it week after week. I don’t own the domain name. I have no control over any advertisements you see while you are there, but at my blog, I can say whatever I want, and have fun with how I present it.
I understand that the internet is a weapon. It is a tool of war, and a tool of oppression. Any useful information you find on it is incidental to it’s purpose, and it probably only saved you a trip to the library, but you have and will pay dearly for that convenience. I don’t enjoy being online at all. I find the internet vulgar, vapid and voyeuristic, and I don’t have to spend very long online before I’m disgusted, pissed off, and disappointed in humanity, but the internet has become the most affordable way for one individual to reach a large number of people, provided you are willing to compromise quality for convenience. Despite the drawbacks, I find some aspects of digital technology, interesting, creatively and aesthetically, and despite my very limited internet access, and even more limited expertise, I do my best to put together the kind of blog that I would enjoy reading, if, God forbid, I ever became bored enough to read a blog.
One aspect of the digital arts that interests me is how easy digital technology makes it to re-contextualize old cultural elements into new artistic expressions. I’ve been into collage since before the days when I made photocopied collage fliers to promote my band’s gigs, and lately, half of the new music I hear seems to be made, almost entirely, from bits of old records remixed together. To me, the one real highlight of the whole crass, ugly, pixilated wasteland we call the internet, is it’s vast potential for juxtaposition.
It was in that spirit that I began adding photos to my blog posts. I added pictures for aesthetic reasons, and for no other. Since I wasn’t making money, I didn’t worry about legalities. When I started www.lygsbtd.wordpress.com I saw the opportunity to re-contextualize photos, memes and cartoons into my essays, and found that it added another dimension to the experience. There is no way I would pay for pictures, and I don’t even have enough time online to ask permission. I add photos and pictures only because the internet makes it easy and convenient. Since we lose the directness of face to face communication and all of the non-verbal cues that go with it, in an online environment, the ability to share a low-resolution reproduction of practically any image in the world seems like an odd but reasonable trade-off to me.
In order to be re-contextualized, these images must first be de-contextualized. That is why I do not attribute most of the pictures I use on my blog. Just because I want to use a picture of a lion, that doesn’t mean I want you to go to the zoo, or even the zoo’s website. I have chosen those pictures to illustrate the ideas conveyed in the text, and that is all I want them to do. That’s why I choose to add pictures to my blog in the way that I do, and that’s the way I intend to continue to do it.
Is this legal? I think that’s a gray area that depends on the definition of “fair use,” and a slew of other thorny legal technicalities. I’m sure we could litigate it for years. Fortunately for me, however, it has never been an issue. After seven years, and thousands of pictures, no one has ever complained about the way I used their work. That is, except for one person, Kym Kemp, of kymkemp.com, the Redheaded Blackbelt.
Kym has asked me to remove her pictures from my blog a couple of times. I make a point of avoiding Kym’s pictures because I know that she doesn’t like me to use them, but on occasion, one of her pictures will show up in a google search, on another site, and I will use it, not knowing that it is hers. What can I say? I write a lot about SoHum, and she takes a lot of great pictures of SoHum. Sometimes her work is hard to avoid. When this happens, and she tells me about it, I’m always quick to remove the picture, and replace it with something else, but last week, Kym got all self-righteous on me.
Kym Kemp told me “I hate what you do.” She told me it was “wrong,” that I was ripping off struggling artists and photographers, and that I am “freeloading.” Give me a fucking break! This, from the woman who could never admit that there was anything wrong with “Mom and Pop growers” exploiting the violence and racism of the War on Drugs, “just to put new tires on their old truck.” Kym would never condemn SoHum’s Drug War profiteers, on principle, but she has the nerve to berate me for my creative re-appropriation of digital images online. I think that’s a truly Trumpian level of hypocrisy.
…and on the topic of ripping off artists, I’ll bet that if you asked all of the artists and photographers who’s work I have used over the years, and gave them this choice:
- I John Hardin will graciously remove their image from my blog, and give them all of the income I have received for putting it together, or
- Kym Kemp, will give them back half of the money they spent on overpriced black market marijuana because of the War on Drugs.
I’ll bet Kym Kemp would still be the only one who wanted me to remove an image from my blog.
It isn’t wrong if nobody gets hurt. Nobody ever died in a shootout over my blog. Nobody ever went to jail because of my blog. Nobody ever had a gun stuck in their face, or their kid’s face, because of my blog. My blog didn’t wreck the economy, destroy the forest or create the housing crisis. My blog doesn’t keep women as slaves, or rape women who come here looking for work. My blog doesn’t sell meth or heroin to your kids. People don’t go hungry because of my blog and my blog does not take food out Kym Kemp’s mouth. Maybe Kym Kemp should find someone else in Southern Humboldt who’s deeds are a little more deserving of her expressed hatred.