Since 1980, the 4 or 5 Floptops known as Negativland have been creating records, fine art, video, books, radio and live performance using appropriated sound, image and text. Mixing original materials and music with things taken from corporately owned mass culture, Negativland re-arranges these bits and pieces to make them say and suggest things that they never intended to. In doing this kind of cultural opposition and "culture jamming" (a term coined by Negativland in 1984), Negativland have been sued twice for copyright infringement.
Okay, but what, you still ask, is Negativland exactly? That's hard to answer. Negativland definitely isn't a "band," though they may look like one when you see their CDs for sale in your local shopping mall. They're more like some sort of goofy yet serious European-style artist/activist collective - an unhealthy mix of John Cage, Lenny Bruce, Pink Floyd, Bruce Connor, Firesign Theatre, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Rauschenberg, 1970's German electronic music, old school punk rock attitude, surrealist performance art, your high school science teacher…and lot's more.
Over the years Negativland's "illegal" collage and appropriation based audio and visual works have touched on many things - pranks, media hoaxes, media literacy, the evolving art of collage, creative anti-corporate activism in a media saturated multi-national world, the bizarre banality of suburban existence, file sharing, intellectual property issues, wacky surrealism, evolving notions of art and ownership and law in a digital age, artistic and humorous critiques of mass media and culture, and, of course, so-called "culture jamming" (a term now thoroughly and somewhat distastefully commodified by ADBUSTERS magazine).
While they have been, since getting sued, aggressively and publicly involved in advocating significant reforms of our nation's copyright laws, and are often perceived as creative and funny shit-stirring anti-corporate activists, Negativland are artists first and activists second, not the other way around. Their art and media interventions have (often naively) posed questions about the nature of sound, media, control, ownership, propaganda and perception, with the results of these questions and explorations being what they release to the public. Their work is now referenced and taught in many college courses in the US, has been written about in over 30 books (including NO LOGO by Naomi Klein, MEDIA VIRUS by Douglas Rushkoff, and various biographies of the band U2), cited in legal journals, and they often lecture about their work here and in Europe.
In 1995 Negativland released a 270 page book with 72 minute CD entitled "FAIR USE: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2." This book documented their infamous four-year long legal battle over their 1991 release of an audio piece entitled "U2". They were the subjects of Craig Baldwin's 1995 feature documentary SONIC OUTLAWS. Negativland also created the soundtrack and sound design for Harold Boihem's 1997 documentary film THE AD AND THE EGO, an excellent in-depth look into the hidden agendas of the corporate ad world that goes very deep into the gross and subtle ways that we are adversely affected by advertising.
Negativland is interested in unusual noises and images (especially ones that are found close at hand), unusual ways to restructure such things and combine them with their own music and art, and mass media transmissions which have become sources, and subjects, of much of their work. Negativland covets insightful wackiness from anywhere, low-tech approaches whenever possible, telling humor, and vital social targets of any kind. Without ideological preaching, Negativland often becomes a subliminal culture sampling service concerned with making art about everything we aren't supposed to notice.