My friend Mat and I talked a bit this morning about the Minor Threat / Major Threat ruckus going on right now. He called me cynical for equating it with some t-shirt vendor selling a shirt with "McPothead" written on it in a McDonald's font.

I'm not going to get into any debates about what punk is or isn't, that's for whoever to decide on their own. I just think that caring about imagery so much as to create a lifestyle around it is falling in the same trap so many people rebelled against a few years ago. Treating your beliefs like a pair of Jordache jeans is what they want you to do.

I love the remix culture, and I will try to consistently support it when I see it.


comments

Dakota Smith

I love the remix culture, too. I hate the advertising culture. And I believe people have the right to NOT have their imagery or derivative works used in an advertisement without consent.

Plus, if companies can just appropriate for ads, how will musicians make money when they get old like Bob Dylan and want to sell underwear or coffee?


mat

This was in the context of your last post, which was tagged with the dreaded "hypocrisy" tag, and which was linked to (and agreeing with) Kottke's comments that Dischord should "lighten up." I think I called you cynical for failing to recognize that people have belief systems, and that those systems are important to them. (And thus to equate Ashlee Simpson's anarchy symbol on her drumheads with D. Boon's mohawk is cynical). To me the sign is less important than what's signified. Paying lip service to something makes one a hypocrite. Standing up for your beliefs (as MacKaye is doing) makes one sincere. Or at least gives one a veneer thereof. I think it's cynical to not expect people to stand up for what they believe in, just because you fail to share those beliefs.

I don't think you're a cynic. Sorry.


dakota smith

And it has nothing to do with it being Punk (which doesn't exist, is dead, is a four letter word). If Nike would've used imagery highly derivative of a Mondrian painting or a Big Star album cover, I'd still be upset. Even if they had permission. Even if it was some hippie, earth friendly company doing the derivative work. Because that is a stupid ad.

I'm not upset that Nike has stolen my Minor Threat punk rock falafel culture. I'm upset that they think they could even try, that it would even work. You want a new pair of Nike skate shoes? I didn't before. I still don't.

They didn't just make an ad with it. They made a shitty one.


Matt Haughey

I know Nike is about a million miles from Dischord, and that Dischord is a milliond miles from lame, where Nike is based. And I concede it's kind of lame that a huge megacorp copied some imagery that embodies the exact opposite of the company co-opting it.

But there's some value in not taking yourself seriously. The reaction against this ad feels kind of weird, like people are really, really taking this album cover and culture dead seriously. I remember so much from 80s skate/punk culture was about taking the piss out of people that took things too seriously. It was about remixing. It was about fucking shit up.

Nike isn't cool, and this is an ad, not a tag on some wall, but still at the center of it there's a band that is taking their album cover as seriously as the church takes artwork involving piss and crucifixes.


mat

When was Minor Threat *ever* not taking itself uber-seriously? Good God, if ever there has been a more serious band, I must have missed them. (I mean, aside from the Butthole Surfers.) Ian Mackaye might need to lighten up. But that's another issue altogether.

He had every right to defend the appropriation of his imagry by a for-profit venture that ran counter to his belief system. And others who have invested years in the community likewise have a right to support him in that.

In this case, two belief systems (DIY/anti-corporate and remix culture) have clashed. MacKaye chose the one more important to him. Good for him for standing up for what he believes.


Matt Haughey

Right, as I joked to Andre "the whole point of straightedge was to keep your body as pure as possible so that it could be filled to the brim with self-righteousness."

I guess I don't see two distinct groups. DIY was always about remixing things (everyone that ever made a zine broke copyright laws and scammed their free copies from work), but I guess in this case my anti-corprorate feelings didn't take over because I thought the original ripoff was so over the top that it was amusing.


Nictate

There might be less of an uproar if Nike had actually bothered to change more than one word, the color and the shoes. It's not so much remix as facelift. I remember back in my early ad industry days that it was consider legal to reappropriate someone's artwork if you altered 27 things about it. That always seemed wacky to me, but if Nike had altered 27 things about the album cover, it might have felt more like a tribute than jumping Dischord's train. When you consider how much Nike paid to use The Beatles' "Instant Karma" in a TV spot, it seems pretty unfair Dischord wasn't even asked permission to use their artwork.


MacDara

A couple of points:

1) Minor Threat were never really straight edge; they just wrote the song, which helped inspire the movement, which in turn spiralled out of control. They might have been puritans in the early days, but I've never equated Minor Threat with militance.

2) I think the main reason why this Minor Threat thing is such a big deal is that they (like Fugazi after them) never used their image to make money. They never made posters or t-shirts, they never exploited their iconography for the sole purpose of revenue. The only merch they sold was their music, and even that was (and is) sold at a low profit margin.

The fact that Nike (or a subsidiary of Nike, whatever) appropriated their imagery for the primary purpose of increasing their revenue stream rankles so much because this is exactly the opposite to what Minor Threat were (and Dischord is) about. (Or if I want to be whiny: if Minor Threat didn't make any money off the images, why should Nike be allowed to?)

If this was, say, Black Flag instead of Minor Threat, I don't think people would be as concerned (or concerned at all), mainly because SST were just as business-like as Nike are (besides the fact that SST remixed enough images themselves in their time).


Andre Torrez

I think everyone is attaching too much significance to how much they care about Minor Threat and Discord as brands/movements/anti-marketing marketing. Are you saying we should exempt brands we like from remixing, and only allow those we have no feelings for?

We can remix McDonald's but McDonald's can't remix us?


Nictate

Yep, that's exactly what I'm saying. To mess with a megacorp's logo like McD's is in theory irreverent empowerment for the underdog. For the megacorp to monkey the underdog is like stealing from Robin Hood. Then there's the fact that those megacorps have layers of lawyers that would wipe out any underdog they could catch reappropriating their images while an underdog who was remixed by a megacorp without that underdog's permission could probably only hope for a letter of apology from a PR hack.

I read a funny quote regarding this hubbub in the L.A. Weekly, which was posted somewhere online by a "glenwood" (I'm quoting him without permission, but did insert the asterisk myself, so consider it remixed, yo.)

"Fuse-addled teens are going to see this and assume Minor Threat is back together and will be throwing Nikes into the audience on the next Warped Tour or something. Then again, this is probably meant to be a viral so people like me will talk about Nike for a day. F*ck."


Nictate

(Apologies if this post appears twice.)

Yep, that's exactly what I'm saying. It all comes down to a David vs. Goliath scenario. Megacorps like McDonalds and Nike are protected by layers of lawyers who can crush any McPothead t-shirt makers they're able to catch. Punk bands and punk rock labels do not have that advantage. Legally speaking, both the megacorp and punk band have ownership of their logos, etc., that they have a right to protect and profit from as they see fit.

However, the underdog David who remixes a megacorp's iconography without permission is capitalizing on his customers' irreverance for all-too-powerful corporate America--sticking it to the megacorp financially (in a miniscule way) and philosophically. The Goliath who reappropriates a punk band's album cover art without permission is co-opting underdog irreverance to make a buck, which is like stealing from Robin Hood to give to the rich.

Here is a funny quote I read in the L.A. Weekly regarding this hubbub. It was posted online somewhere by a "glenwood":

"Fuse-addled teens are going to see this and assume Minor Threat is back together and will be throwing Nikes into the audience on the next Warped Tour or something. Then again, this is probably meant to be a viral so people like me will talk about Nike for a day. F*ck."


Nictate

(Apologies if this post appears twice.)

Yep, that's exactly what I'm saying. It all comes down to a David vs. Goliath scenario. Megacorps like McDonalds and Nike are protected by layers of lawyers who can crush any McPothead t-shirt makers they're able to catch. Punk bands and punk rock labels do not have that advantage. Legally speaking, both the megacorp and punk band have ownership of their logos, etc., that they have a right to protect and profit from as they see fit.

However, the underdog David who remixes a megacorp's iconography without permission is capitalizing on his customers' irreverance for all-too-powerful corporate America--sticking it to the megacorp financially (in a miniscule way) and philosophically. The Goliath who reappropriates a punk band's album cover art without permission is co-opting underdog irreverance to make a buck, which is like stealing from Robin Hood to give to the rich.

Here is a funny quote I read in the L.A. Weekly regarding this hubbub. It was posted online somewhere by a "glenwood":

"Fuse-addled teens are going to see this and assume Minor Threat is back together and will be throwing Nikes into the audience on the next Warped Tour or something. Then again, this is probably meant to be a viral so people like me will talk about Nike for a day. F*ck."


Down10

I have to agree with Andre here.

If you think a certain class of art is somehow "off limits" to use and abuse, you're a fool with double standards. Everything is fair game if it's not aggressively protected by the law, and in this case, Nike saw an opening and pounced (although the Nike poster's designers said they meant it to be a tribute and not an exploitation). Not very respectful of them, but since when is any image untouchable? Alberto Korda, who took the now iconic photo of Che Guevara intentionally allowed it to be used freely by anyone, but was forced to claim its copyright when he found out it was going to be used to advertise Vodka. Perhaps Minor Threat should have done the same?

I got a C&D from McDonald's over distributing a free font based on, and including, their corporate logo. This logo happens to be trademark, and for that reason, McDonald's had the ability to threaten a lawsuit on my distribution because it appeared that the value of their trademark would be "diluted." I was in no position to fight it, so I reluctantly complied. While I didn't sign the papers they requested of me, I didn't hear from them again.

Therefore, if Minor Threat felt that their record covers/images are valuable enough to protect from advertisers from using the images to sell/promote products, they should have filed the images for copyright, U.S. laws meant to protect EVERYONE from plagiarism, not just corporations. (Call me naive, but that's how it's supposed to work.) Yes, this would likely have required money the hiring of lawyers to enact and protect. But that's life -- if you don't like the rules, work to change them or else don't participate.


Brian

www.econoculture.com

Football, Beer, and Dischord

Fox teams up with Minor Threat and successfully eases that dreadful transition into the second quarter. Well, “teams up” might not be an accurate description, but if you were watching the Eagles vs. Broncos game last Sunday on Fox TV you might have caught a snippet of Minor Threat’s swan song, “Salad Days.” Econo staff writer, Justin Moyer, covers the story in the latest edition of econoculture.com. Take a minute and check us out. We’re the web’s newest guide to all aspects of indie culture.

Here’s a link to the story: http://www.econoculture.com/m/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=112&Itemid=45

Thanks for taking the time,

-Brian
brian@econoculture.com


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