Remix Culture Is About The Culture As Much As The Remix

from the killing-culture dept

Over the weekend, I finally got to watch the film Copyright Criminals (after having seen clips and a discussion about the film at the Fair Use Film Screening put on by Public Knowledge back in January). I have to admit, the film was pretty depressing. While it may seem like I pick on lawyers a fair amount, I actually tend to like most lawyers I meet -- but I don't know quite how they did it, but every lawyer who showed up in that film just seemed to ooze smarmy. They appeared to smirk through their interviews, as if they knew what they were saying was ridiculous, and the whole thing was all about getting as much money as possible, rather than having anything to do with fairness or creating art. Meanwhile, the actual content creators -- they seemed pretty much defeated. They had worked on amazingly innovative and cool projects that had nothing to do with "copying", and everything to do with creating beautiful new works of art that people loved. And they got sued and shut down over and over again. It's a shame. But not just because of the art that wasn't created, but the potential to connect culturally through it.

This is a point that often gets overlooked in these discussions -- that art is about more than the creator. We've tangentially discussed this idea in the past, but Julian Sanchez put together a little video last week that does a nice job demonstrating this in about eight minutes:
What he points out is that for culture to matter, it goes beyond the artwork itself, to the people who experience the artwork and then share it with others -- thereby connecting with each other and the artwork itself. And while people sit back and claim that remixing is "stealing" or "lazy" or "not art" at all, that's totally missing the point. Art is not about just the creator. Without the shared experience, it's a lot less valuable -- and what we've done with copyright laws is make it that much more difficult to share that experience through our own eyes and our own cultural views. And if you don't see the shame in that, then you're missing a lot.
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Filed Under: copyright, culture, remix


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  1. identicon
    anguyen43, 10 Feb 2010 @ 12:50pm

    Re: culture as our common touchstone

    Real Estate, cars, and "something" are cultural creations as well. Everyone derives inspiration from everything around them, regardless of whether they can physically take chunks of it and incorporate it into their own art or just simply use the feeling they got from looking/touching/experiencing the thing. I'm having difficulty distinguishing between a car and piece of music besides the fact that one is physical and the other isn't. One might need to explain that one to me.

    Property rights are limited (you can actually have a pig farm in the middle of a suburb and you can paint your house fuschia ONLY IF the developer/owner of the suburb lets you; and welll... the government can do anything), but so is copyright, i.e. fair use, parody, and public domain allows others to use copies of the work.

    People decide how they interpret things and draw inspiration from them. But that doesn't mean that if I wanted to create something from the Mona Lisa that I should be able to grab it, cut it up and turn it into a t-shirt. I agree with TAM to the extent that simply because we can, doesn't mean we should.

    Copyright, for me, is not about exploiting a monopoly, but protecting the integrity of the work and the artist. Compulsory licenses allow others to re-record songs while paying royalties to the original songwriter. Other than that, artists should be able to have the right to refuse to have their music be in a shitty hipster 80's fan video (with all due respect, of course). If an artist could not be guaranteed that their art won't be used in some gay-bashing, Nazi-promoting film, what kind of silencing effect would that have on the creative community? If I couldn't control the way my art is presented to the world, then what do I really have?

    What I got from the video is that those who want their copyrighted works to be used by fans and by others can do so, just give them permission. In regards to music, it's the labels who typically do not want others to use music in fear of hurting their profit margin and they're trying to use copyright to do it. It's not working. We need to shift away from the idea that copyright is to intended to be used to protect profit margins, but to protect artists and their works, in addition to foster a growing creative society.

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