Ethical Remixing?


What is the purpose of remix? To completely copy a section of Lawrence Lessig’s book Remix and Identity, I’m just going to keep it simple, vague, and  broad and say that its purpose to dedicated to “enabling the future.” After all, people’s opinion about what remix actually is and the ethics surrounding remix seem to be “simple, vague, and broad” so I would suppose that the reasoning behind remix should be something similar.

But in all honesty, I do think that Lessig’s section title “Enabling the Future” is actually a good reason and purpose behind remixing. The chapters under this heading deal with the laws and ethics behind remixing, but I think that it is also just a good reason behind remixing. We live in a Read and Write (RW) culture and so we most definitely do participate in remix–even unconsciously, I might argue.

Lessig’s chapter 9 deals with copyright laws surrounding remixing. After reading this chapter, I think that for personal use, things should not even be copyrighted. I keep thinking about the example we talked about at the beginning of the semester where the mother got in trouble for posting a recording of her daughter dancing to music. She was sued. Because she did not own the copyright to the background music of the video. But, I’m sure the quality of the music was not even very good. And perhaps people might even be more interested in buying the music to which the daughter danced after they watched the video. (So, maybe she’s be helping sales–free music promotion/advertising.)

I do think that copyright laws are definitely useful to an extent. Because artists do need to make money and so it seems that there should be some protection for them. But, I would like the laws to be slightly more relaxed. And as we discussed in class–if you happen write a [dissertation] and include lengthly passages of [Steinbeck] in it, then if the publisher denies you the freedom to reproduce those passages for publication, your work is [almost] “pointless”–in the sense that you cannot publish your hard work.

What would the repercussions even be if you paid the owner a small fee? I haven’t thought over it much, so I honestly do not know; but I think that making it possible some way for people to be able to use material is good. Otherwise, we will turn into a Read Only (RO) culture.

What then? We lose our creativity and imagination. I think that remixing is a good thing. It allows artists (and by that I mean anyone participating in remix) to contemplate an “original” work and change it around–maybe to show something in culture, to express a personal belief, to advertise for something…

And here is something else to consider, maybe there could be a difference in laws between those who seek to make a profit off of their remixed material and those who are doing to without the intent of profit. I realize that you cannot judge a person’s “intent” but maybe there could be certain categories. You want to publish a dissertation or other academic work? Use Copyright laws DAW (“dissertation academic work”). If you want to remix to sell songs or other works, use other appropriate  copyright laws –the SSW law.

Just a thought.

But I will definitely have to consider this more. It’s a challenging and very multifaceted question and I am definitely not a lawyer.


To Remix or Not to Remix

Long story short? For this class, I have no problem remixing. For personal use, it’s also find. For the public, I’m not sure. (For more information or to find out why Isabelle holds these views, please scroll down. If you do not care, then don’t scroll.)

To be completely honest, I am not exactly sure what and how I feel about remixing. I think that there is a line between acceptable and then just plain old copying. We were made in the image of God and obviously that means that we are works of God–and made after Him. So surely to a certain extent of “remixing” isn’t wrong at all.

He created us with creativity, and He also put us in communion with each other. He said it was “not good for man to live alone” and so he created woman. But I think that this can also apply to how we are communal beings and we are not designed to live on desert islands by ourselves. We interact with each other. We brainstorm together. We build off of each other. In unofficial ways this seems acceptable. By unofficial I mean planning projects in office settings…one person starts something, another adds, someone subtracts, the next turns it down a different road, and then somehow the end project is achieved. It probably looks a lot different than when it started, but that’s alright.

In a way, remix can be like this. If Pollack really is inspired by Van Gogh, then let him be Van Gogh’s remixer. Pollack’s work is more abstract than Van Gogh’s work is. It’s the “post-modern” recreation of Van Gogh. It’s different and it appeals to a different audience (potentially) and it also reflects the different cultural meaning and definition of art. In the screen studies class I’m taking this semester, we’ve been talking recently about how film theorists felt they needed to re-define what art was with the introduction of film. They wanted to bend the definition to account for cinema. In like manner, Pollack’s art is a bending and a new take on Van Gogh’s work. It’s a re-mix, but it’s different enough to be…umm…different.

Some remixes, though, aren’t like that. They’re not different enough. A lot of cover songs are like this, I’ve noticed. And while this doesn’t infuriate me, it does disappoint me. I would like to see songwriters writing music that was more “original.” And let’s be honest. Everyone says that Shakespeare was a great and famous author/playwright. Right? But if you really study his plays, they are so full of allusions to Greco-Roman myths that it’s ridiculous. It’s actually quite mind-blowing. That man was kind of brilliant in his ability to combine so many different things together like that. Personal opinion aside, Shakespeare was a remixer and he’s considered great. Be like Shakespeare. Remix. And be great. Just please, don’t make something that’s worthy of the “#twinning”caption. That’s cute for clothes and everything, but songs need something different.

For my own personal use of the ethics of remixing? I’m not entirely sure. Based off of what I’ve said above, it seems like I would be fine with remixing things. For this particular class, I have no issue remixing materials. It’s for educational purposes and I’m not doing anything for profit.

Profit. There’s an interesting twist to the story. I think that if I were choosing to make a profit off of other people’s work, I would really stop and think about what I was doing. I might feel guilty using their work. That’d almost feel like plagiarizing. Even in a group project or discussion, if I use material that we’ve worked on as a group, I feel like I need to give the whole group credit. I feel bad just saying, “Oh, and I thought of this brilliant idea all by myself.” So if I was going to cover a song, or remix it, I am not sure if I would. Obviously I would be affected by the song, but I would try to be original. And I’ve noticed while making the remixes for this class that I’m struggling to use other people’s work. I just want to make it all myself.

But back to my ethics for personally making remixes. I have done some “copying” of “artwork.” I really enjoy calligraphy (until this semester when I got too busy) and one of the things that I enjoy is copying down quotes I really liked. I love the look and feel of colored pencils, so I primarily used them, though recently it’s been acrylic paint..or a chalkboard. Anyways, sometimes I would not look up any pictures of the fonts I wanted to use, or the colors, or the formatting. I’d just design it from my mind. But other times I would hop on my trusty friend, Pinterest, and see what I could find. I never copied it down perfectly, though, because I really did want it to be my own. (This same rule applies to cooking/baking. I find a recipe and then I modify it.)

So that, my friend, is some of the thinking behind my first statement.