My Culture is a Remix- To Whom Do I Owe My Thanks?

Tech Task #9

After watching Brett Gaylor‘s film RIP!:A Remix Manefesto, here are my reactions:

I think that we live in a world of remix, and this is not new. As the film mentions, the works of the greatest scholars were often building on, or working against the ideas of others who came before them. When I write an essay, I rely heavily on the knowledge of those who have come before me and those who have developed beautiful discourse in order to create my own. I give credit to those people, but I mash-up their words into my own ideas and therefore I create. I believe that we should give credit to where our ideas are evolving out of, because perhaps there is such a things as intellectual property. And I believe that this should apply to music, video and even medicine, the same way it applies to literature. Some people have genius- creative- thoughts and in all fairness they should be acknowledged for what they contribute. However, does that mean they should be paid every time someone gives them that acknowledgement? I don’t think so. Because this is just giving fuel to build an elitist society. Only those who can afford to buy the ideas of those before them are allowed to work off of those ideas. The rich will get richer, smarter and more powerful, while the poor will have limited resources and limited opportunities for advancement.

Is a “free” society a realistic goal in a society driven by monetary value? Some say money makes the world go round. Those on the left believe in sharing it, while those on the right want to jump in and grab as much as they can for themselves. And so its no wonder that some people have gone so far as to put a price on intellect, and feel they should be paid for their ideas. (But I wonder why writers haven’t got their foot in the door of this copyright cash-out?) These people feel that they can own their own ideas, but I ask how can you ‘own’ an idea? When there are approximately 7 billion people in the world, chances are that at least one other person is thinking the same thing as you right now. So the question becomes who will win the race in pursuing the rights to that idea, get it patented or copyrighted and ‘own’ it? If you don’t do it first, someone else will. And if its something that can make a profit- how can you say no? This is a “right” sided mentality, the copy-right. And because money holds such power in our society, no matter how much is advocated for a “free society” where resources and ideas are public domain, the debate will never be concluded. The “left” thinkers will want to share and share alike, while the “right” will want to profit wherever they can, always. In the film they put it very succinctly: “Copyright has been manipulated for profit”. But such is the way of the world, the allure of wealth is difficult to ignore.

I still don’t entirely understand the ‘line’ between something old and when something becomes something new, created from something old. I wonder how the mash-up artists would feel if their work was taken, a few notes changed and given a new title (giving the new creator claim for the work) then selling it for top dollar. Would the mash up artist agree the money should go to the ‘new’ mash-er? Should it go to the original mash artist, or should it go to the original creators of the music (although as the film proves, this is difficult to trace)? But I guess the argument of having everything free to share would answer this question- if everything was free, and no one was making money off of their art work, then it wouldn’t matter who ‘got the credit’ because it wouldn’t be monetary credit. But that makes me think of a new issue. If all music and videos were free to share and remix, how would artists make a living? As it is it is difficult to make a living off of art, whether it be literature, painting, dancing, music etc. If all art was free to consume, and free to reproduce, would people stop creating art because there would be no profit? Or would people create more art?… because more resources and opportunities for the average man would be available.

Until watching this video, I didn’t realize that the patents on bio-medical research are so strict that it limits future research. These strict patents on medical research may be what’s holding us back from discovering the cure to many of the world’s ailments. When brazil went against these rules and remade a patented HIV drug. Was is right? What is more morally correct? To follow the rules, or to stop people from dying?

So much of popular culture revolves around parodies. See the above images, watch “Scary Movie” or “Not-Another-Teen Movie”. Why then wasn’t Air pirates OK? And how sad is it that Walt Disney the man had a good handle on how to use reuse previously made content to create parodies, but when he passed on and Walt Disney the company took over, they drastically changed their approach to this for their own profit? Very.

Without the ability to remix, to reuse baselines in music, there wouldn’t be the ability to create new genres of music. There could only be one ‘hip hop’ artist, or one ‘country’ artist, because we all know a lot of the songs within a particular genre sound a lot alike. And in Everything is a Remix, Kirby Ferguson proves this.

Brazil seems to know where its at. They are a culture based on sharing! How wonderful would that be? In Canadian culture we try to instill in the younger generation that its “right”, its “good manners” to share with their peers. But is our society really one that promotes sharing? Music and video copyright proves that it does not. Copyright says, “I will share with you, but only if you pay me back”. That’s not sharing. Its difficult to promote sharing to the young, when the adult world is based on individual ownership, not shared ownership.

I have some unanswered questions. I have questions regarding the images this video connects with remixed music: people dancing, grinding, taking off their clothes. When I think of remixes, I think of clubs, of raves. I love the music, I love to dance to it too, but the rep this genre has picked up is not a ‘good’ one. I wonder if these images were connected to the remixes intentionally  to open up the question of ‘immoral’ behaviours vs ‘pure’ behaviours, ‘immoral’ music vs ‘pure’ music.

I’m also confused by the RIP!:A Remix Manefesto creators asking for a contribution to be made to them. Is their argument that art should be free to the public? Or is it that the people who create the work should get the credit (aka get paid) for their work? I thought they were on the left, on the ‘free’ side. By asking for a contribution to their work it complicates their argument. If I were to make a contribution to them, which side of the argument do I fall onto? Theirs because I am supporting them? But if I am paying for the ability to watch/use their work, isn’t that agreeing that they deserve money for the knowledge they have imparted one me? And so I would be on the ‘right’ side. I’m very confused by this. Where do they draw the line?

Ultimately I think I fall closer to the left, than the right. All of our culture is affected by previous culture and society, and the same goes for music and movies. But I also think that credit should be given in those realms, just as it is given in the world of literature. We should acknowledge to the best of our abilities who has affected our creativity- but we should be free to create.

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