Don't You Dare (2)
posted Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Written today and first published here
In the ancient days, when all was modern, one was allowed to take photographs of architecture or public statues without fear of contravening artistic rights and so forth.
But that was before the so-called ‘Don’t You Dare’ law was enacted, forbidding any form of plagiarism including the plagiarism of form itself. Thus ‘architecture’ or ‘statues’, as defined, were bracketed with ‘paintings and other fine art’.
The ‘Don’t You Dare’ nickname for such a wide-ranging and restrictive law was adopted because even the act of quoting the real name of the law was considered to be, in itself, a form of plagiarism conflicting with the terms of the very law that, therefore, necessarily had to remain unnamed.
I once caught a surreptitious student outside my listed house with his mobile at a suspicious angle (hiding his face) and I shouted through the window that my property was out of photographic bounds because of the ‘Don’t You Dare’ law. The custom, in these circumstances, was to shout out that very phrase. Everyone then knew what you meant.
He middle-fingered me. But, of course, the law was so strict that being caught breaking it would entail harsh penalties. So, he slouched off, amid a concealing huddle of complicit students. I shouted expletives towards their backs.
“Flea off! And don’t let me catch you even writing a description of my house, you copy-typists!”
It was written in the small print of the ‘Don’t You Dare’ law that the term ‘replica’, embodied in the wording, did include essay-writing on the spot or even memory-training to visualise any architecture or statue for later reproduction-by-any-means.
Only one of the students responded to my shouts but I’ve already exceeded my descriptive powers in depicting the earlier middle-finger, perhaps, because there was a recent test case that people themselves could be included within the definition of ‘statue’.
I felt the need to run after them to give them a piece of my mind. One needed to blow one’s top. Bottling-up was not good. I ran down the stairs, while endeavouring to keep my thoughts at bay as far as possible, because I feared even thinking about certain things might contravene the Statute of Statues.
Good job my memory was so poor. That was thankfully not the real name of the law.
Halfway down the street, however, the student with the mobile abruptly turned to face me and started to shout at the top of his voice: ‘Don’t You...’, as if envisaging a future identity parade at the local nick. Whose identity (his or mine), I dare not even imagine. Even envisaging the envisaging of anyone else might contravene smaller print than it was ever possible to read. And which of us was the Medusa became a moot point.
In the ancient days, when all was modern, the laws were always sensible. Political Correctness never crossed swords with unwritten hindsight. Nor was poetic licence set in stone.