Posted by: marionmbarnes | November 13, 2017

If There’s Nothing New Under the Sun, Who Owns the Sunshine?

In both the TED Talk Embrace the Remix by Kirby Ferguson and Brett Gaylor’s documentary RIP!: A Remix Manifesto, the focus is on the creative process involving the copying, transforming and combining of established intellectual property into new forms of expression. Ferguson and Gaylor refer to the concept as remixing. And in many cases, it’s in direct violation of U.S. copyright laws.

Technology has an inherently adversarial relationship with the notion of intellectual property ownership. The casualties in the battle are many; artists believe their creativity is stymied by the threat of legal action. Everyday citizens are persecuted with fines or settlements that are wildly disproportionate to their “crimes.” Creators of new products, drugs and technology are hunted by patent trolls. Ultimately, the advancement of the greater public good can be obstructed.

Remix artist Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) believes critical mass makes this unlikely. There are just too many people remixing, reusing and recreating copyrighted materials for media companies to come after every citizen. “It’s back in the people’s hands for the first time in a long time,” Gillis says in Gaylor’s documentary.

A quick look at new media platforms supports his conclusion. Memes, which often include copyrighted images, are routinely embellished by users and end up going viral on social media. YouTube users upload 60 hours of video every minute, much of which may skirt the edge of infringement. Collaborative media projects – including the RIP!: A Remix Manifesto documentary itself yield new artistic expressions that celebrate the spirit of elaboration and evolution.

Regardless whether copyright laws remain intact or are altered to meet the current technological climate, remix artists of all stripes likely will continue to step into the sunshine.

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