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April 6 press release Past projects / Deconstructing Beck / April press release
News flash: Today is USA Phone In Sick Day--New York Times coverage
(BBC audio clip coming soon)

April 6, 1998

Contacts: RTMARK (
Illegal Art (
Negativland (

Series with Illegal Art and Negativland
builds on earlier successes, encouraged by Geffen's tolerance

Three big players in the field of corporate subversion are joining forces.

Negativland has agreed to help Illegal Art and RTMARK with their new "Deconstructing" series, which builds on the unexpectedly large success of Deconstructing Beck, a compilation of illegally sampled Beck released by Illegal Art and sponsored by RTMARK. The new series, for which RTMARK has gathered $5,500 in "seed" funds, will sample well-known copyrighted material for artistic purposes; Negativland will help distribute some of the releases.

First in the series is Deconstructing Beck itself, already re-released on Negativland's label, Seeland. The next release, slated for August, will "deconstruct" Hollywood film music. New releases are planned every six months thereafter, with RTMARK providing more funding as needed.

The music industry's relative calm in the face of Deconstructing Beck--which has been featured on radio stations worldwide and has made it onto many of their "top 10" charts--has encouraged Illegal Art and RTMARK to establish the series. Beck's label, Geffen, reacted aggressively at first to the CD, but has since then been silent. In a recent e-mail to RTMARK, Geffen's Jim Griffin wrote: "Frankly, everyone seems to have forgotten about it and I suspect that at most our attorneys felt obligated to write you some kind of note. But no one here so much as busted a sweat when they heard about it.... They probably felt the need to raise some amount of token objection so it didn't set a precedent."

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Geffen, Beck's publisher (BMG) is still trying to force Illegal Art to cease distribution, but so far can't find a physical address to which to deliver a threatening letter, the necessary prelude to any legal action. (See for some of the correspondence, including a response by Negativland to Geffen's lawyers. Also see for articles about Deconstructing Beck.)

Geffen's passivity may reflect emerging industry standards, according to RTMARK spokesperson Ray Thomas. A few years ago, U2's lawyers pursued Negativland for an album which sampled U2's music extensively. When U2 itself found out, they called off the lawyers, but it turned out that U2's reputation had already been tarnished by the episode. When Negativland later did a similar thing with Pepsi jingles, Pepsi, perhaps wisely, chose not to react. Something similar may be happening with Geffen, according to Thomas, and "BMG is just being thick."

Negativland spokesperson Mark H. likewise believes that Geffen has learned its lesson. "Geffen knows this sort of thing is no threat to the sampled artist. For their lawyers to really pursue this would only make Beck look mean-spirited, and they know it."

There is another possible explanation as well. Beck, who was sent a copy of Deconstructing Beck shortly after its initial release in February, is rumored to like the CD.

RTMARK was established in 1991 to further intelligent subversion, in some cases by channelling funds from donors to workers for sabotage of corporate products. Recent and upcoming acts of RTMARK-aided subversion are documented on RTMARK's web site,

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