Here’s an interesting development in the world of Debord and plagiarism… I’ve just downloaded the beta version of the game. The story is from Rhizome — here’s the rest.
“Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea.”
So wrote Guy Debord, prominent member of the Situationist International and major instigator of the infamous Paris uprisings of May ’68. In his most famous text The Society of the Spectacle, Debord articulates the belief that free trade of thoughts and ideas is not only acceptable, but necessary for the intellectual advancement of culture. He did not simply advocate plagiarism as a means of reference, but as an active way to critically engage and subvert dominant media images — what he and his fellow Situationists referred to as ‘détournement.’ Put simply, détournement is the appropriation of these prevailing images for meanings in opposition to their original intent — a strategy that has influenced generations of activists, academics, and artists. So when the estate of Guy Debord recently sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to a group of American artists for copyright infringement, people familiar with Debord’s oeuvre were rightly shocked. Beyond the obvious irony of the situation, this particular case has raised questions about the complexities of copyright, monetary compensation and the historical legacy of our anti-establishment icons.