CT&D #56. Review of RiP!: A Remix Manifesto

After watching “A Remix Manifesto,” I can strongly say that this documentary covered a lot of ground surrounding the controversy of copyright laws and I enjoyed watching and learning about the topic overall. I really loved how there was sufficient focus to the subject of copyrighting and the violations that one faces if violating laws that enforce copyright; also how these details tied into 4 main points the documentary’s purpose was centered on:

1. Culture always builds on the past (in the music and film mediums, remixers always look to the past and through previous works made by original creators to manipulate them into a remixer’s “own work,” sometimes doing so to create a new meaning or message from changing the tone and composition of said original work of how they were originally intended to be consumed)

2. The past always tries to control the future (historically, laws have been passed to deter people from taking ideas from others or to temporarily hold them off from doing so, in some cases well after the original creator(s) have passed on)

3. Our future is becoming less free… (… where copyright laws and violations against those who use copyrighted materials have resulted from backlash against free use (even fair use) of works mostly stemming from lack of compensation for original creators; this has created more regulations by government bodies to limit the use of using such works and to financially protect their creative owners), and

4. To build free societies, you must limit the control of the past (the best example being intellectual property such as potential cures and elements that make up for such in fighting diseases having to be freed from the bowels of patent laws in order for their usage to be fully taken advantage of by many scientists from all over world to cure pandemics such as cancer and AIDS).

Prior to watching this documentary, I knew to an extent how copyright laws have held significance in crediting a creator’s work fairly and some of the terms in issuing a copyright to prevent plagiarism; but there are a lot of gray areas where the law can be somewhat countered (like in certain scenarios as with free speech being used as a right where a law doesn’t protect) that I never really paid attention to when thinking about the issue with protecting a work / using a protected work for an authorized or non authorized purpose.

Tying into what I didn’t know is this concept of “copyLEFT and copyRIGHT” referring to the public domain and corporate sides of creative ownership / right of use respectively; the former concept promotes the free exchange of ideas (without being bogged down by suffocating restrictions in preventing many from recycling or remixing ideas into “original” works for example) while the latter promotes protection for corporate bodies and individuals, accompanied by the concept of royalty fees to allow original creators to claim monetary benefits as determined by the value of their work (in actuality, the controversy is with the corporations being compensated, even though some of the time individuals do not sue others for infringing on their work as they may possibly embrace the sharing and giving aspect of inspiring some to create, an notable example being fan fiction). To me, this is a highly complex matter that I sympathize more with the copyLEFT group but at the same time understand the importance of crediting someone’s work in the copyRIGHT camp.

Even though the documentary primarily focused on copyright infringement in music, it can still happen with any medium, the visual and technical arts included. As a graphic design student, I understand that plagiarism can exist in a work of art; at the same time, I also understand artistic influence. The key difference is that the former refers to one ripping off another idea for one’s own gain (either in part or by in large) while the latter defines a fondness and perhaps the paying of homage to a work of art by somewhat paralleling it to a work of their own (oftentimes in the same genre). I feel like the documentary was trying to portray a world where anyone can pay homage to ideas by having anyone recreate them by their own definition but unfortunately there are limits and dangers to doing this because there’s a legal aspect to borrowing, even if for musing purposes.

This is not something I agree with, especially with how government and corporations want to turn their own citizens and customers collectively into criminals for “illegally” sharing a work to be purely enjoyed or consumed, but I wholeheartedly believe in citing and referencing sources as it deters and should deter someone from taking credit for someone else’s work and benefiting from that by monetary gain and fame. As long as there’s an educational (and not malicious) purpose, at least how I see it, fair use – a copyLEFT concept that I have since learned and fiercely supported – should be fair game in using copyRIGHT content.

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