Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2

In 1991, Negativland’s infamous U2 single was sued out of existence for trademark infringement, fraud, and copyright infringement for poking fun at the Irish mega-group’s anthem “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” In 1992, Negativland’s magazine-plus-CD “The Letter U and the Numeral 2″ was sued out of existence for trying to tell the story of the first lawsuit. In 1995 Negativland released Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2,” a brand new 270-page book-with-CD to tell the story of both lawsuits and the fight for the right to make new art out of corporately owned culture.


The overwhelming (and very funny) “Fair Use” takes you deep inside Negativland’s legal, ethical, and artistic odyssey in an unusual examination of the ironic absurdities that ensue when corporate commerce, contemporary art and pre-electronic law collide over one 13-minute recording (and to hear the actual single itself, go here).


The book presents the progression of documents, events and results chronologically, contains the suppressed magazine in its entirety, and goes on to add much more that has happened since, to illuminate this modern saga of criminal music. Also included is a definitive appendix of legal and artistic references on the fair use issue, including important court decisions, and a foreword written by the son of the American U-2 spy plane pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960.


Packaged inside the book is a full-length CD containing a new 45-minute collage piece by Negativland, “Dead Dog Records”– which is both about artistic appropriation and an extensive example of it- plus a 26-minute “review” of the U.S. Copyright Act by Crosley Bendix, Director of Stylistic Premonitions for the Universal Media Netweb.

3 Responses to “Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2”

  1. “That’s the letter U and the numeral 2″ | Off The Shelf says:

    […] with Negativland was the fact that they embraced the notoriety that the case brought (and even published a book about it – alas, we don’t have it) and it stands as the closest thing that they have to a […]

  2. U2 Vinyl Record Sound Art Project: Dead Wax And The Sounds Of Silence | Joe Wallace says:

    […] That controversy happened when Negativland released some material featuring appropriated sounds from DJ Casey Kasem and U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from the Joshua Tree record. This is all documented by Negativland in Fair Use and is generally fascinating. […]

  3. Sneak Preview: The DeadWax Project | thestudiolab.net says:

    […] In the late 20th Century, sonic troublemakers Negativland found all the trouble they ever wanted when they released a 12-inch single on vinyl and cassette. The single, titled U2, had consequences best described by the artists themselves. From the Negativland official site: […]

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