Negativland is a performance and recording group who remixes original materials and music into something they never intended to be. Negativland refers to this as ‘culture jamming’ (a term they discovered back in 1984). The group focuses on using appropriated works of audio and visuals to make it their own. Through their culture jamming approach to recreating content, they have found themselves faced with two lawsuits involving copyright infringement.
The current performance group contains four members: Mark Hosler, Richard Lyons, David Wills, aka The Weatherman and Peter Conheim. They have created their own record label ‘Seeland Records‘. It’s an independent record label, which they created to release their own music. It was founded in 1979 and focuses on experimental music genre. Seeland Records has numerous artists signed including Negativland, John Oswald, Realistic. The record company disappeared throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s time period due to Negativland signing with SST Records. However, once Negativlands split from SST Records, they revived their created Seeland records.
Negativland had a number of released in the early 1980s, but their break came after releasing their sample hit, ‘Escape from Noise’ in 1987. In 1991, Negativland released a single with the title “U2” displayed in very large type on the front of the packaging, and “Negativland” in a smaller typeface. An image of the Lockheed U-2spy plane was also on the single cover. U2’s Island Records label sued Negativland, in which they claimed that placing the word ‘U2’ on their album cover violated the trademark law, along with the song included. Negativland are interested in intellectual property rights, and argue that their use of U2’s and others’ material falls under the fair use clause. The group even released a book and a CD called ‘Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2‘ in 1995. The 270 paged book and ten track CD focuses on the lawsuit they found themselves in with U2’s record label. An unfortunate side effect of the Negativland-Island lawsuit was another one brought on between Negativland and SST, which served to sever all remaining ties the two had.
While it is true that, after being sued, Negativland became more publicly involved in advocating significant reforms of our nation’s copyright laws (more recently finding themselves being brought to Washington DC and Capitol Hill as citizen lobbyists for copyright and art issues), Negativland are artists first and activists second. Negativlands have contribued their time to Creative Commons, an non-profit organisation that focuses on providing a large range of creative works for other to legally use as their own. Very much like Negativlands way of using elements from other artist’s material/visuals/audios and recreating it into their own unique way.