CAN'T COPY ME!
Christophe Bruno - February 2003
Like many people, I like the idea that www is a place
where duplication has no limit. Anybody can download
a media and re-use it. Sometimes you are faced with
legal problems, this is part of the game.
But also, I like the idea that there are things you
One of the first things I'm thinking about is conceptual
art. It may seem strange, since concepts are at first
glance the easiest thing to copy. But in the field of
art, this is not true, because when you copy, you generally
slightly modify the piece, for many reasons. And conceptual
pieces have very little latitude to be modified: if
you "add" something, then, following the "less
is more" principle, the piece is worse. And if
you "substract " something, then the piece
can be even better and you were right to do it. So it's
not copying anymore, it's the way art evolves. (of course
"adding" and "substracting" are
not easy-to-deal-with concepts...)
The closer you are to the concept, the less you will
be copied, or at least, if you get copied, the other
pieces will probably be weaker, in the sense that extra
considerations (as more design or more typo games or
whatever) will perturbate the concept.
For those who don't get what conceptual art is, just
think about it the other way round: if your piece can't
be easily copied and re-used without any depreciation,
then it might well be conceptual art.
An example : selfportrait
by Valéry Grancher. I take this piece as an
example because there has been a controversy about
it. There is a very similar and very interesting piece,
which had been done before by alundale
(the piece does not seem to be online anymore), but
which was not presented as a selfportrait. The piece
by Valéry, even though it looks very much like
the other one, points out the concept of self in a
new way, and by an infinitely thin move, it opens
new horizons. This piece was a new start and it was
the first piece of the search
Now there is a second way not to be copied, which could
be considered as conceptual art as well, but in another
manner. If your piece involves so general a field that
it can't be more general (this is not "minimal
conceptual" art as before, but "maximal conceptual"
art ;-), then, following the principle "you can't
have more than more", there is no way to copy your
An example : gogolchat
by Jimpunk and Christophe Bruno. Gogol is a ficticious
character whose speech tends to the sum of all speeches
of mankind. There is no way to improve Gogol and you
can't plagiarize this ultimate plagiarist. He is unique.
He just exists (well you can still try to find another
The third way is quite funny to me. It would be to produce
pieces so stupid and contingent that nobody would be
interested in copying them.
An example : I can't
think of any right now (actually I do think of a couple
of things but I'd rather not mention them as I don't
know whether the authors would appreciate to be listed
in this category) but I will try to make such a piece
Finally, the best way of all is not to show your work.
If you can't find me, you can't copy me! I heard that
has done such a piece, but of course I have never seen
it. If you find it, send me an email.
P.S. As I write these lines, and related to the very
topic of this text, there is some legal fuss about another
piece by Valéry Grancher: Jerusalem.
The organization which owns the Israelian webcam is
threatening Computerfinearts.com to demand their ISP
to cancel the hosting account because they would violate
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. There
is a long list now of such affairs involving net artists
and private companies, but it seems they are more and
In 2000, the British artist Donna
Rawlinson Maclean tried to patent herself.
Well, I'm going to do the same: everything I do, every
single thought I have, I will copyright, and I will
forbid you to use them. You can't copy me!