Canadian Actor Claims Mashups Are Morally Wrong And Should Be Illegal

from the get-off-my-cultural-lawn dept

It's kind of amazing how frequently those who argue and advocate for more draconian copyright laws show themselves to be totally out of touch with actual culture. In fact, it frequently seems like they want these laws to prevent new forms of culture simply because they don't like (and don't understand) the culture. For example, Michael Geist notes that Leah Pinsent, a Canadian actor, appearing on behalf of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), spoke before the government, arguing against a "mashup" provision in the proposed copyright reform, which would legalize non-commercial, with attribution, mashup works. According to Pinsent, this idea is immoral:
Ms. Pinsent is fighting to prohibit so-called “mash-ups,” which allow anyone to take elements of works that Canadian artists have created and mix them with other works to create something new. She argues the practice is “morally wrong” and constitutes a form of plagiarism.
Of course, plagiarism is when you take someone else's work without attribution (and is separate from copyright law). Under the proposed law, attribution is required, so it's not clear what Pinsent is so upset about, other than that she just doesn't like mashups. But, as we've seen over and over again, this just appears to be cultural snobbery by someone who doesn't know much about mashup culture, no different than past generations who looked down on jazz, rock, rap or any other "new" music that they just didn't get. Nothing in a mashup takes away from an older work. There's this weird belief that someone doing something with your work somehow "damages" the original, but nothing is further from the truth. Mashups quite frequently introduce new audiences to old works and create new appreciations for old works. I know that's absolutely true with me. When I listen to various mashups, I'm always much more interested in hearing the originals. So I'm at a loss as to how it could be immoral or bad.

Of course, Pinsent isn't completely alone in this view. After all, much of the world has "moral rights" built into copyright law, which allow creators to block others from modifying their works on "moral" grounds. In fact, moral rights are required under the Berne Convention (something the US has skirted by granting them in an incredibly limited fashion such that they really don't exist). But I've never understood how there's any actual moral claim behind moral rights. How is it "moral" to block others from creating something entirely new? It seems, once again, to be based on the idea that the new somehow "harms" the old, but I've yet to see an argument for how that makes any sense at all.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:54am


    Isn't a movie trailer a mashup?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Nathan F (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 11:00am

    Re: Query

    I would say yes, they are a visual mashup or montage. However I do believe that they are usually made by the movie studios themselves and I'm sure they gave themselves permission to 'make something new' with the footage.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 11:04am

    I think homosexuality is morally wrong and should be illegal

    Its true, it is morally wrong. And because I say it is, it should be up to the government and private companies to get rid of it. Disgusting gays with their gayness...
    I don't care about mashups, but he can get rid of them also. Just as long as we also get rid of the gays...and maybe Muslims too


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    el_segfaulto (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 11:05am

    We see time and time again how people like the aforementioned Pinsent try to dilute the English language by using socially charged words. Creating a mashup is about as morally wrong as discussing an NFL game with your coworkers without first being granted express written permission. We also see it with the term "stealing". I hear it all the time from grade school children, "You stole my idea!", etc. It's astonishing to me to hear supposedly educated people equating copyright (which is NOT a natural right) infringement to stealing and immorality.

    I've heard the maximilists say "You're taking something that doesn't belong to you." to which I think, y'know I can take a picture of the mountain that your house is built on, it doesn't mean that I've stolen your house, your mountain, or the work of the various parties who helped build the home. In fact, I could then use that photograph to create artwork, maybe it's an undersea mountain inhabited by snorks, maybe it's a mountain on another planet inhabited by snorks...the long and short of it is, inspiration is not stealing. Copyright infringement is not stealing, it is