Comedy, Copyright, Media, Writing

In Australia “Stupid Funny” Is Illegal

1 Comment 21 September 2013

In Australia “Stupid Funny” Is Illegal

Next year I will officially have been a “comedian” for ten
years and in that time I have found there is a rarer or more simple
comedy treat than swapping the faces of two people in a photo,
especially if they’re of mix genre or race or whatever. The more
diverse the better. This is the cleanest and simplest negation. The
fundamental building block of a joke. My favourite of recent times
was a promotional still for the James Bond film Skyfall. Judi
Dench’s sour intensity was swapped with Daniel Craig’s blue steel
of avant garde perplexity. Hilarity ensues. People emailed it,
posted it, shared it, zipped, unzipped it, liked it, tweeted it,
and perhaps even maybe… just maybe…Google+ed it. Why? Because
that sh*t cray. It’s a man dressed as a woman, and a woman dressed
as a man. Get it? There’s nothing to “get” really. It’s pure
incongruence, much like a dog on a skateboard, or a newsreader
holding a ream of copy paper during a broadcast. It’s not
satirical. It doesn’t “say” anything in particular. It’s just
funny. Because it is. As my friend Andrew says there is nothing
funnier than a man in a dress. Unfortunately for those who dislike
The Footy Show, technically Andrew is right. That’s why some people
watch in vain to see the slighted sliver of ball sack from the
rising edge of a man in a mini skirt. Why not? Strangely it’s the
most cerebral thing on that program. Luckily for the creator of
that Bond image, its origin was probably from outside of Australia.
Most likely from one of the creative petri dish forums of the
internet, like a Reddit, a 4Chan, a Something Awful or something
else where like-minded creative people spend their days mashing up
culture to tell stories and mostly make each other laugh. And
sometimes, when the laughs are good enough, we mere mainstream
browser bashers get a tatse of the humour that rises to the top.
Like in a good writer’s room of a TV show, it’s the battle of ideas
in these forums that generates some of the funniest bits of humour
on the net. There’s no profit motive, there’s no business plan,
there’s only ideas designed to titillate an audience of keyboard
culture makers. The origin isn’t important for no other reason than
the complexity of the copyright laws of that nation.Under
Australia’s fair dealing laws there is nothing to stop the creator
of that image from being chased by lawyers threatening nasty legal
proceedings Charged for the creation of pointless comedy is
something I know a bit about. People have wanted to sue me over the
years for my jokes. I’ve received cease and desist letters for a
parody of Tourism Campaigns. I’ve had my parodies I’ve made of the
ads of TV Industry Bodies taken down (then after investigation
reinstated.). I’ve suffered the full brunt of the Australian media
for daring to suggest that their handing of the Beaconsfield Mine
disaster was less than appropriate. At times it felt like the whole
world is out to get me for a harmless joke. Thankfully Australia’s
Fair Dealing laws protect the kind of work that I make. Under fair
dealing for satire and parody, as long as the jokes I do stick it
to the man, I can use a reasonable amount of whatever I like to do
so. However to make a simple joke that doesn’t really say anything,
like putting Dench’s face on Craig’s body, the law says I can’t be
that stupid. I say. The law is a little bit bullshit. Sometimes,
believe it or not, comedians have to be stupid. But not just us
comedians, but anyone who is fluent in photoshop and shares their
stories over the internets. For much of the 20th century
storytelling has been commodified. Ever since the wax cylinder came
into being, companies have been packaging and selling stories.
Films, records, books, television, if it can be shrink wrapped and
distributed it can be sold. As technology advanced so did the
storytelling, eventually the professionalisation of storytelling
meant that amateur story tellers were outclassed by their well
equipped professional overlords with their cinemascopes,
explosions, beautiful chins, watertanks, computer generated
graphics, botox and cocaine habits. Gradually storytelling culture
became a sophisticated money making system of distribution chains
and consumers. Entrenched for a hundred years, the art of telling a
story, over that time was co-opted into a business. That’s the way
it works in any industry, company makes product, tells customers
about it, customer wants product, company sells product. Its
channels are defined and myopic. But now thanks to democratisation
of technology and platforms for sharing, the ability for anyone
with the tools and skills to tell stories is now flattening out.
Everyone carries a HD camera in their pocket, the distance from
storyteller to an audience is as short as it has ever been since
the campfire was invented. Before the last hundred years of
commodification the storyteller was a culture of the amateur, not
to be defined in opposition to someone who is a professional, but
defined as someone who engages in the love of an art. Believe it or
not before culture became commodified in the 1800′s with the wax
cylinder, people used to tell stories to each other, people used to
sing to each other, people used to gather in public places and
debate, share ideas, comment, criticise, and yes even troll each
other. Campfire yarns, music, theatre, plays, skits, jokes, ideas
were all once transient works to be remixed and spun by the
storyteller. An original idea is a misnomer, every idea is built
upon hundreds of others. What we are seeing, thanks to the
internet, is a return to the culture of people telling their own
stories, and sharing their own songs. The campfire is now global.
Over two generations have now grown up with this as the normal way
of things. They make stories as well as consume stories. And it’s
competitive, they want to share their idea the fastest, they want
their idea to be the best, they want their concept to spread, which
means building on the work of others, transforming the ideas of
others, twisting the narratives, chopping a head off here, pasting
a hat on there, putting text at the bottom, drawing a cock at the
top.. all in a veracious and intellectual way.

<a
href=”http://www.danilic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/OkayAusNeedsTony.jpg”><img
class=”size-medium wp-image-1010″ alt=”Only one of these jokes is
okay under Fair Use”
src=”http://www.danilic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/OkayAusNeedsTony-300×256.jpg”
width=”300″ height=”256″ /> Only one of these jokes is
okay under Fair Use

This kind of story telling in
Australia isn’t legal but it happens anyway. Why? Because no one
knows it illegal, and no one cares. It’s simply the language of the
internet. Two generations of people have grown up with the internet
and laws have yet to catch up and serve them in the right way. The
digital divide isn’t about nations, it’s about generations. Young
people are more closely connected to other young people in the
countries where they live, when compared to older people in the
countries where they live. And the digital divide between young and
old is growing. Fair Dealing criminalises digital culture, thus
Fair Dealing discriminates against two generations of young people
and therefore Fair Dealing is anything but fair. Fair Use however
is totes good. I’d create a LOLcat to demonstrate, but that would
just be stupid, and in this country thanks to Fair Dealing, stupid
is illegal.   For more information on Fair Use
check out <a
href=”http://www.choice.com.au/consumer-action/consumer-protection/digital-rights-copyright/fair-use.aspx”>Choice
Magazine’s campaign for Fair Use: <a
href=”http://www.choice.com.au/consumer-action/consumer-protection/digital-rights-copyright/fair-use.aspx”>http://www.choice.com.au/consumer-action/consumer-protection/digital-rights-copyright/fair-use.aspx
And I just LOVE <a
href=”http://blip.tv/lessig/freeing-culture-4341243″>Lawrence
Lessig’s work in this area:
<a
href=”http://blip.tv/lessig/freeing-culture-4341243″>http://blip.tv/lessig/freeing-culture-4341243

Your Comments

1 comment

  1. Megs says:

    That was a great read Dan. Let’s hope the laws catch up soon. Some comedy is great and done is bad, but both kinds should be legal.


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