Rip! A Remix Manifesto

The remixers manifesto:
1. Culture always builds on the past.
2. The past always tries to control the future.
3. Our Future is becoming less free.
4. To build free societies, you must limit control of the past.

– Lawrence Lessig

During class we watched RIP! A Remix Manifesto, a documentary by Brett Gaylor (link to the site, and an opportunity to stream the film in it’s entirety!). This excellent doc looked at the history of copyright, the problems inherent in current copyright, the possible unchecked future should things continue the way they are, and many examples of the many working towards a reality where everyone has universal access to human knowledge.

Technology and music is a big part of my life. My BFA grad show focused on music as the way individuals identify themselves by, and included mash-ups of the musicians each individual liked, so they in essence had their own individual song. I love music, and I am so grateful for the online library of music at my fingertips. Without it I wouldn’t be listening to Fela Kuti, Os Mutantes, Modern lovers, etc. musicians whose music had either flown under the radar, or was impossible to get here (and still largely is). Despite the idea that this kind of ‘piracy’ would inhibit buying of albums, I think it’s much better in the long run. Just because I download music on the net hasn’t stopped me from buying music, it’s simply made me a more conscenscious buyer; my palette is much more refined, and I can support those artists whom I really enjoy.

This is likely why the corporations who own most of the musical rights in the U.S. hate file-sharing so much: They largely peddle only formulaic crap that is intended to reach as large a target audience as possible. That’s why when I do buy albums, I try and buy them directly from their label, or the musicians themselves, and the internet has made that so much easier.

Topic change: The doc’s take on the history of copyright was really interesting. Orifinally copyright was created to encourage sharing, not inhibit it. The Statute of Anne (1700’s), the first copyright document was intended to work as a  balance between authors, and that of the public. After 14 years of it’s creation, the song/book/etc. would be then given back to the public.

This wonderful system was in place until the leeches at Disney (post Walt Disney, who incidentally was one of the greatest mash-up artists ever!) pushed the US Govt. to rewrite copyright to allow for 70 years after the creators death, as opposed to the original 14 years after creation.

This nasty turn of events has really put a stranglehold on creativity. Classic albums such as Beck’s Odelay, or the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique could never be made and sold these days, the licensing rights to all the samples they used in their songs would amount to too much to be even viable as a product.

This documentary is able to get away with all the samples they show under the ‘Fair Dealing’ clause, which allows samples to be used the same way quotes are used in an essay, to make an argument, critique, or satire.

The most important thing referenced in this doc is bill c-61, a bill that if passed, would greatly change copyright law, and place huge restrictions on file sharing, copying, mash-ups, etc. And from what I have learned from this video, it’s not just the media arts that would be effected. It’s important we all become more aware of what we currently take for granted, and stand up to those attempting to control the freedom of expression, creativity, and really intellectual evolution that we all can benefit greatly from. Michael Geist, a law professor from the University of Ottawa has a blog arguing against bill c-61 that offers a lot of insights, and educational resources to educate others about the harmful effects such a bill would have.

Here’s a link to the Canadian Library Association’s ‘Grassroots Advocacy Kit‘ against bill c-61 that can be used to raise awareness, and as a way to organize your argument when speaking to your local mp.

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