Remix Culture Done Right: Wes Tank Mashes Up Dr. Seuss With Dr. Dre (And So Far The Copyright Police Have Left Him Alone)

from the doctor-meets-doctor dept

A few days back I saw a friend share an incredible video on YouTube of a guy in Milwaukee named Wes Tank, rapping Dr. Seuss's "Fox in Sox" over Dr. Dre beats. Even if you think that sounds great, the final result is even better than you expect:

That video went super viral and is currently at over 3.5 million views on YouTube. Wes has since been adding more and more Seuss-over-Dre videos to his channel and each one is incredible. Because I can't pick favorites, here are a few. You'll want to watch them all.

Since seeing these videos (multiple times), I've read and watched a few different interviews with him and he says he basically came up with this idea on a whim five or so years ago, and did it at a live show, and got a tremendous response. Since then, he's done it a few times and it's a crowd favorite, but he never really had time to make the videos for it until, you know, the pandemic hit and the work he was planning to do with his recently created video production company, TankThink, got put on hold.

Of course, as someone who has promoted and supported the concept of mashup or remix culture for decades, this reminded me (yet again) of why being able to do this kind of creativity is so important. Wes himself has talked about the joy and value these videos are creating:

"I think this is helping families a little bit to cope and to have something positive that is going to make you laugh, and is not cynical, and it's not the news," Tank said. "There are so many kids out there who have no clue about what is going on in the world and that naivete is sort of fragile, and everybody's parents are a little tense. So when people send videos of their kids glued to the screen watching this, that just warms my heart."

It really is quite wonderful.

But of course... the downside of paying attention to these kinds of things for decades has me wondering how this plays out in the long term... because copyright always has the ability to come in and create problems. In one interview he's asked if he'll be putting out an album of the tracks, and he implies that copyright might get in the way of any kind of official album release (though he is offering the MP3s to his Patreon supporters).

Still, we're talking about the notoriously litigious Dr. Seuss estate, which not only sued over a fun parody of Dr. Seuss's work, but is still fighting the fact that it has so far lost that case. Parts of that case just had oral arguments before the 9th Circuit a few weeks ago. In other words, the Seuss Estate doesn't seem all that keen on letting people create derivative works. And that's before we get into whoever holds the copyright on Dre's music. Getting both sides of the copyright equation to agree on allowing this would make sense in a sane copyright world -- but that's not the world we live in.

Hopefully, neither side gets upset with this and they let Wes continue doing such an amazing job -- but just the fact that we all know there's a decent chance these amazingly creative mashups might disappear because Dr. Seuss's estate doesn't get paid, should be yet another damning example of how ridiculous the state of copyright law has become today.

Filed Under: copyright, dr. dre, dr. seuss, mashup, remix, wes tank, youtube


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 5 May 2020 @ 12:02pm

    from opt-in-to-opt-out

    If only we had the copyright laws before the 1976 copyright act. Copyright would have been opt-in instead of opt-out, there would have been a one term with the option to renew another, we would have 56 years max instead of 95 years max, etc. Of course, this all goes back to the Berne Convention which kickstarted this madness. When you make copyright opt-in, you basically make every culture consumer a pirate and make every author a landlord rather than just those who choose to copyright their works.

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

    • icon
      aerinai (profile), 5 May 2020 @ 2:16pm

      Re: from opt-in-to-opt-out

      Don't say landlord! Copyright cops don't like it when you say landlord! He's sorry. He didn't know any better. It just happened once, officer. He promises not to do it again. We'll be going now...

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

  • identicon
    Alan, 5 May 2020 @ 12:43pm

    It's happening . . .

    Number 7 is already gone.

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

  • identicon
    Crafty Coyote, 5 May 2020 @ 3:46pm

    Yes, I wonder if copyright itself is weakening due to the virus. Because world governments and court systems are operating only at a limited capacity, there would be fewer tools that a plaintiff would have at their disposal to stop unlicensed copying.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 May 2020 @ 7:21pm

      Re:

      Sadly you vastly underestimate how utterly insane people, including judges, can get when it comes to The Holy Copyright, Upon Which Society Itself Rests.

      No, if stuff like this is still up it's simply because the copyright landlords either haven't found it yet or are smart enough to realize that it helps them out by drawing more attention to their stuff.

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

  • identicon
    Crafty Coyote, 5 May 2020 @ 7:26pm

    Society itself doesn't rest on copyright and right now, the judges cant even hold a trial without plaintiffs, defendants, juries, bailiffs, and an audience so copyright enforcement is a fantasy

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

    • icon
      crade (profile), 6 May 2020 @ 6:21am

      Re:

      Copyright enforcement was always a fantasy. As long as the lawyers are still working it will go pretty much the same as always. Trials are the rare exception and are only needed very occasionally just so they can make an example of a few choice people and putting them off for a while won't make any difference.

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

      • identicon
        Crafty Coyote, 6 May 2020 @ 9:34am

        Re: Re:

        But how are trials the rare exception? Any accusation of theft requires a trial, to say if the defendant is guilty. Its not as if you can just accuse people of stealing your physical property without evidence, and intellectual property is no different

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

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 6 May 2020 @ 10:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well, intellectual property is different, in that if you steal physical property, the person from whom you stole it doesn't have it anymore. If you write a book and I copy it without your permission, you still have the book.

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

        • icon
          crade (profile), 6 May 2020 @ 1:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Trials are the rare exception because the norm is intimidation threats and settlements. The norm is for the powerhouse, if they so choose, to send some sort of threat to the small fry and say something along the lines of "take this down or we will destroy you like (insert past example of disproportionate punishment here) and the small fry or some intermediary on their behalf says "yes sir" and takes it down.

          That the actual lawsuit might be delayed or who would have won makes no difference, it would very rarely happen anyway. The fact that these videos are still up means the powerhouses have either not noticed or have allowed it for now, it doesn't mean they can't do anything about it because they can't go to court right this minute.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2020 @ 2:28pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Trials are the rare exception because the norm is intimidation threats and settlements. The norm is for the powerhouse, if they so choose, to send some sort of threat to the small fry and say something along the lines of "take this down or we will destroy you like (insert past example of disproportionate punishment here) and the small fry or some intermediary on their behalf says "yes sir" and takes it down.

            And this is where we can call their bluff, though it would take a full knowledge of the rights that defendants possess when they enter a courtroom. It's important to know that 1st,4th, and 5th amendments can be invoked to help a defendant, when they're accused of theft. And again, it's impossible to prove loss when copying is a positive-sum game.

            it doesn't mean they can't do anything about it because they can't go to court right this minute.

            So best to strike when the iron is hot, and if you want to guard against their claims, you can either claim copyright in your own work, or use a Creative Commons license to declare it open for the world to enjoy.

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

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 11 May 2020 @ 10:35am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              And this is where we can call their bluff, though it would take a full knowledge of the rights that defendants possess when they enter a courtroom.

              And the time and money to enter into a potentially years long series of lawsuits.

              It's important to know that 1st,4th, and 5th amendments can be invoked to help a defendant, when they're accused of theft.

              They're not accused of theft, they're accused of copyright infringement. Totally unrelated law. The 1st amendment could come into play in a copyright suit but I don't see how the 4th or 5th could be relevant at all.

              And again, it's impossible to prove loss when copying is a positive-sum game.

              There is no need to prove loss. The plaintiff can just ask for statutory damages, which are up to $150,000 per work and have no burden of proving any actual damages.

              if you want to guard against their claims, you can either claim copyright in your own work, or use a Creative Commons license to declare it open for the world to enjoy.

              Neither of those will prevent a copyright suit against you. For example Wes could apply for a copyright on these videos, but if the Seuss estate sued him for infringement, his own copyright filing would not guarantee a win, let alone a fast cheap dismissal. I don't know that it would even help.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2020 @ 11:38am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                And the time and money to enter into a potentially years long series of lawsuits.

                Double jeopardy laws prevent a defendant from having to stand trial multiple times for the same offense. Or from being punished twice if found guilty.

                They're not accused of theft, they're accused of copyright infringement. Totally unrelated law. The 1st amendment could come into play in a copyright suit but I don't see how the 4th or 5th could be relevant at all.

                But copyright infringement IS theft, that what the unskippable advertisements in movies and all the educational material aimed at consumers is for. The 4th Amendment prevents "unreasonable search and seizure" by the police, so they need a signed warrant from a judge to take you to the trial. The 5th Amendment allows you to know what the charges are against you, and gives the opportunity to remain silent during the trial, without it being an admission of guilt. If you're accused of stealing anything, both of those could be truly helpful during your trial.

                There is no need to prove loss. The plaintiff can just ask for statutory damages, which are up to $150,000 per work and have no burden of proving any actual damages.

                Do you think twelve randomly-selected jurors and a judge are going to allow that kind of disproportionate punishment to take place? A CD might be $10, same as the cost of ducking into a movie theater, that would be the value of the stolen item and the repayment costs would be somewhere in that ballpark.

                if you want to guard against their claims, you can either claim copyright in your own work, or use a Creative Commons license to declare it open for the world to enjoy.

                The first option gives you the opportunity to make a valid claim with the government that your work is original, and the second option enables you to give your work to others by declaring it a wildcard for anyone to use, and that would preserve it for future use by another innocent person.

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

                • icon
                  nasch (profile), 11 May 2020 @ 12:36pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Double jeopardy laws prevent a defendant from having to stand trial multiple times for the same offense.

                  That applies to criminal trials. If you win a civil trial, your opponent can appeal unless the suit was dismissed with prejudice.

                  But copyright infringement IS theft, that what the unskippable advertisements in movies and all the educational material aimed at consumers is for.

                  And it's all BS.

                  The 4th Amendment prevents "unreasonable search and seizure" by the police

                  Which isn't happening in a suit over a YouTube video.

                  so they need a signed warrant from a judge to take you to the trial.

                  That is not even a little bit how civil lawsuits work.

                  The 5th Amendment allows you to know what the charges are against you

                  There are no charges. This would be a civil suit.

                  gives the opportunity to remain silent during the trial, without it being an admission of guilt.

                  There is no question of guilt since, again, this would not be a criminal matter. You know the difference between criminal and civil right?

                  Do you think twelve randomly-selected jurors and a judge are going to allow that kind of disproportionate punishment to take place?

                  Yes, for example: https://www.eff.org/cases/capitol-v-thomas

                  The first option gives you the opportunity to make a valid claim with the government that your work is original

                  Sure, you can make that claim. But it doesn't prevent the plaintiff from claiming you infringed their copyright.

                  the second option enables you to give your work to others by declaring it a wildcard for anyone to use, and that would preserve it for future use by another innocent person.

                  That other person could also be on the hook for copyright infringement. Your copyright registration doesn't provide indemnification.

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2020 @ 1:24pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    That other person could also be on the hook for copyright infringement. Your copyright registration doesn't provide indemnification.

                    How is that possible? When people are guilty, they knew what they were doing was wrong. A company can try to file a lawsuit to stop the original thief but then they run into all kinds of trouble with mens rea, jurisdiction, and setting up multiple trials for multiple people.

                    Not to mention that getting ANY trial to happen with defendant and plaintiff, their lawyers, a judge, and a jury during an international pandemic is impossible now and the judges will be overwhelmed with all the cases that couldn't be tried after the months-long judicial holiday is over

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

                    • icon
                      nasch (profile), 11 May 2020 @ 4:30pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      When people are guilty, they knew what they were doing was wrong.

                      You don't have to be aware you were infringing copyright to be found liable for it.

                      https://www.law.uci.edu/faculty/full-time/reese/reese_innocent_infringement.pdf

                      A company can try to file a lawsuit to stop the original thief

                      Infringer, not thief.

                      then they run into all kinds of trouble with mens rea

                      Once again, this is a civil concern. Mens rea is relevant to criminal matters.

                      Not to mention that getting ANY trial to happen with defendant and plaintiff, their lawyers, a judge, and a jury during an international pandemic is impossible now and the judges will be overwhelmed with all the cases that couldn't be tried after the months-long judicial holiday is over

                      I am not up to date on court proceedings. The Supreme Court is holding arguments over the phone, so it is possible other courts are or will be operating similarly. Or they could open in a limited fashion maintaining distance between all participants. I doubt the entire court system is just going to be shut down until the vaccine is ready.

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

                      • identicon
                        Crafty Coyote, 11 May 2020 @ 5:12pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        You don't have to be aware you were infringing copyright to be found liable for it.

                        Under master-and-servant principles, the giver could essentially "cover" for the recipients by accepting responsibility. This could be an issue where the giver is actually trying to expose a corrupt politician to a newspaper but the politician claims copyright in what he said to suppress the information. The informant could take the guilt and let the paper publish his expose, even if it meant he would face jail time for fighting corrupt politician, but the politician could use copyright to censor information. That's just one example.

                        As far as trials are concerned, the Supreme Court wouldn't shut down completely because the cases they are deciding would impact the course of our entire nation. But on a day-to-day basis for hoi polloi, don't count on the local courts being able to hold sessions at all. Copyright law would be affected, obviously, because the courts would determine innocence or guilt, and damages.

                        But the most important thing to remember is that the Copyright Office, being a library, has also shuttered its doors. As a holder of copyright myself, I know it can take six months between filling out a copyright and receiving it, so this is going to be a major issue for those who want to gain the rights that come with registration.

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

                        • icon
                          nasch (profile), 11 May 2020 @ 6:11pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          The informant could take the guilt and let the paper publish his expose, even if it meant he would face jail time for fighting corrupt politician, but the politician could use copyright to censor information.

                          So I've lost track of the number of times I've pointed this out, but there would not be any jail time unless it was criminal copyright infringement, which is quite rare compared to civil, and certainly would not come into play in a whistleblower situation such as you describe. Second, if you're saying that if the whistleblower "takes the guilt" then that forecloses a copyright holder from filing suit against a publisher of the information, that is a theory I have never heard of, and I would be interested if you could provide a reference to something like that actually happening in real life. Third, your example seems quite contrived since I don't think any public figure has ever successfully sued for copyright infringement over quotes in a news source. Again would be interested in any citations to such a thing happening.

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

                          • identicon
                            Crafty Coyote, 11 May 2020 @ 6:26pm

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            The Ecuadorean government tried to use DMCA to shut down criticism in 2016 using provisions in the DMCA. The United Kingdom tried to shut down a former M15 agent in 2011 using copyright. Putin used copyright claims to censor anti-government messages during the World Cup.
                            https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/copyright-censorship/

                            The theory would be that the information wouldn't be suppressed by a man who goes into the fight willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Time and again, I've found that copyright is concerned about the financial value of a work. But they don't really have much to stop people who would spread information without a prayer of monetary recompensation, because their desire to spread that information might require them to become martyrs.

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

                            • icon
                              nasch (profile), 11 May 2020 @ 6:43pm

                              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                              Thanks for the link. I don't think that could happen in the US because the government can't hold copyrights on material it produces like it can in the UK. It would have to use some other statute to go after someone. Fortunately the US government generally has a hard time suppressing the press from writing about newsworthy topics, even when it's classified information. That's also a somewhat different situation than described earlier since this isn't an individual suing over his words being published, but a government suing over documents it wrote. Would the government hold the copyright over something the prime minister said to a reporter? Would the prime minister? Would it even be copyrightable? Putin of course is a whole other topic since there is essentially no freedom of expression in Russia (if I understand correctly).

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

                              • identicon
                                Crafty Coyote, 11 May 2020 @ 7:13pm

                                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                                One thing I know for certain is that as long as copyright focuses narrowly on those who infringe for private financial gain, it will continue to be ineffective against those who share that forbidden information for free. That has been, is, and will be its biggest weakness, and that's also one of piracy's greatest strengths- people who look beyond the money they could make for their ideas and just set them into the world for everyone to enjoy, free as sunlight.

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

                                • icon
                                  nasch (profile), 11 May 2020 @ 8:25pm

                                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                                  I'm not sure where you got the idea that copyright is only focused on infringement for financial gain. Plenty of people have gotten hit with judgments with no financial gain in sight. And to suggest that the problem with copyright is its enforcement is not expansive enough is I would say pretty outrageous. And I say that as someone who creates copyrighted material as a career.

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

                                  • identicon
                                    Crafty Coyote, 11 May 2020 @ 8:57pm

                                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                                    Yeah, no doubt that it is expansive. But there are a few limitations- people will make plenty of works for the joy of making them, not concerned with some after-the-fact to censor others for 95 years. Plus, sending in a registration with a fee attached so that you can take someone to court is actually good. Information should be free, until and unless someone pays a premium to cut other people off. I did, but 1.) I don't want to get lawyers involved for someone giving me free advertising and 2.) If someone else likes my creation that much, I wouldn't want to stop them.

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

                                    • icon
                                      nasch (profile), 12 May 2020 @ 8:28am

                                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                                      But there are a few limitations- people will make plenty of works for the joy of making them, not concerned with some after-the-fact to censor others for 95 years.

                                      And yet it's copyrighted anyway, whether they want it to be or not.

                                      Plus, sending in a registration with a fee attached so that you can take someone to court is actually good.

                                      It would be even better if you had to do that to get a copyright at all.

                                      1.) I don't want to get lawyers involved for someone giving me free advertising and 2.) If someone else likes my creation that much, I wouldn't want to stop them.

                                      Glad to hear it.

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

  • identicon
    Crafty Coyote, 6 May 2020 @ 11:22am

    That's right. And even if the "theft" could be proven, re-imbursement wouldn't be that much. Since clemency or a reduced sentence is available to thieves who return stolen property with contrition, trying to press for a return would not be lucrative. And in spite of all the rhetoric, theft requires loss and copying by its nature allows for information to become more widespread and there is only gain, not loss

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


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