In the two decades since the first exhibition of Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho (1993), “appropriation”—a mainstay of visual art since the mid-twentieth century—has also become a mainstay of experimental filmmaking and artists' film and video. Montages, collages, found-footage documentaries, essay films, and diverse other works made from pre-existing moving images now feature regularly at film festivals, in museum cinematheques, and in art galleries. Yet beyond the protective walls of these cultural institutions, a global copyright war is raging. Over recent years, media owners have become ever more assertive of their intellectual property rights, while activists have become ever bolder in their demands for radical open access. How have film and video artists responded to these differing views about what constitutes our cultural commons? This article explores the question by focusing on two test cases: Thom Andersen's essay film Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) and Christian Marclay's video collage The Clock (2011). Both involve unlicensed reuse of pre-existing film and television material. However, in their overall conception, methods of production, and distribution and exhibition, Andersen's and Marclay's works provide opposing models for how to engage with media property. The article concludes by suggesting that the two works' differences raise urgent ethical question about how (and where) contemporary artists' film and video is exhibited.

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