Review of "RiP! A Remix Manifesto" by Brett Gaylor

June 24, 2013

Upon viewing Brett Gaylor’s film “Rip! A Remix Manifesto” I am actually feeling a little angry at the United States for creating such binding copyright laws to limit people from sharing, downloading, remixing, creating and sometimes even enjoying musical art. This movie had many great examples of how copyright laws are a little over baring and are stopping the creative process. Copyrights were originally created to allow people to use, share and improve on created works after a certain period of time. This movie has shown that copyrights now a day are very different.

This movie covered four points in amazing detail. Those points are 1 – Culture always builds on the past. This is sharing that our culture is always changing; the art and work around us help shape where we are going. Art and work are improved upon and ever evolving. 2 – The past always tries to control the future. The jest of this section is that the artists do not want their work to change and want complete control over what happens to/with it. I will hit on this section more in a moment. 3 – Our future is becoming less free. This is pretty straightforward; our future seems to be pre determined by what the people with all the money say. And lastly, 4 – To build free societies you must limit the control of the past. Again, this is pretty straightforward, if we want freedom to be creative we need past creators to loosen their grip and let go.

As second chapter of this film, the past always tries to control the future, starts at just 21 minutes and 31 seconds into the film. In this section we meet Lawrence Lessig who was a lawyer who was fighting for people who were being sued for illegal downloading. As a side note, Mr. Lessig also inspired this movie being discussed. Mr. Lessig remarks on downloading musical works that, “The one thing that is absolutely clear is that there is no way to kill this technology you can only criminalize its use. We can’t stop people from taking culture and remaking it in a way that expresses their ideas differently. We can only drive this creativity underground. We can’t make our kids passive in the way we were growing up. We can only make them ‘Pirates’ and the question that we have to ask is, ‘Is this any good?’”

Mr. Lessig brings up some amazing points. You can’t stop downloading, sharing, remixing, or crating new music from past ideas you can only find or create offense against it. This in my opinion is absolutely absurd. We have been creating new works while being inspired from past works as long as we have been around, but now it is suddenly illegal? Why have some of the most creative people in our societies been pushed down and out of the spotlight? There are amazing underground music scenes everywhere, and to be honest, some of my favorite times as a listener of music have been at a party or club with this “illegal” music.

How will our culture in music evolve if everyone is running around thinking that someone else has ripped them off. G, C, Em D is such a common chord progression that many songs have been written with it. Everything from “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John to Howie Day’s “Collide.” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believeing”, Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Let Her Cry”, and Justin Beiber’s “Baby” all share this chord progression just in different original keys. All of these songs are very different but because some of the rules that are established in resolving chord tones set up by music theory they all seem to be acceptable. The same chord structure in these and many more, but they are different songs. There does not seem to be any sort of copyright infringement until someone, usually a large company or organization, decides that there is similarities between to samples.

Brian D. Johnson in his article “He’s seen the future and it’s a remix” about Brett Gaylor’s film states, “Rip also shows how strictly copyrighted music can originate with theft. The film traces the DNA of The Last Time by the Stones back to a folk song recorded by the Staple Singers in 1959, and ahead to a remix by the Verve that become the target of a successful lawsuit by the Stones’ record company. Walt Disney, who built an empire on branding public-domain fairy tales, is portrayed as a pioneer mash-up artist. Yet the house that Walt built is now a notorious litigator — Disney once took legal action against a daycare center that had its characters painted on a wall.”

I think that copyright law could be very good if it were written better. Yes I think artist’s work should be protected and yes I think they should be paid for what they do. I also think that getting permission to sample or remix should be a lot easier. After all, it should be a compliment that someone wants to use your work to create something new. I would be honored. In fact, my band has a song right now that some hip-hop artists would like to use. We think its great that they like it as much as they do. It would be great if there were a way to change copyrights to either cheaper prices for use of a work or create a way to get easier access to discuss ideas with the actual artists or creators of the work

Copyright Law limits the use of remixing by not allowing samples to be taken without permission. It offers large fines and possible jail time for using these samples illegally. I think that the remix culture should, like I have stated already, have easier access to get permission to sample a work. As it stands right now, if someone gets caught remixing without permission the original artist does not see a penny of any fine that is handed out anyways, so it may not matter to them as much that someone copied their work as much as not getting the credit for it.

This idea by Creative Commons to, “give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to keep their copyright while allowing certain uses of their work — a “some rights reserved” approach to copyright” is great. There website encourages, “If you want to give people the right to share, use, and even build upon a work you’ve created, you should consider publishing it under a Creative Commons license. CC gives you flexibility (for example, you can choose to allow only non-commercial uses) and protects the people who use your work, so they don’t have to worry about copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions you have specified.”

Original authors and artists can maintain as much or as little control of their work as they want. This is allowing our culture to grow and change the way it should while still taking care of giving credit where it is due. This also allows the first of Brett Gaylor’s ideas from his movie that, “Culture always builds on the past” to be true in a legal way. This is how art has evolved in the past, how it is evolving today and hopefully how it will continue to evolve in the distant future.

The sources I used for this paper were as follows

RiP! A Remix Manifesto by Brett Gaylor – NFB . (n.d.). External Sites – NFB. Retrieved June 23, 2013, from http://films.nfb.ca/rip-a-remix-manifesto/

The Tyee – ‘RiP: A Remix Manifesto’. (n.d.). The Tyee – Home. Retrieved June 23, 2013, fromhttp://thetyee.ca/Entertainment/2009/03/27/RemixManifesto/

Lessig | Blog, news, books. (n.d.). Lessig | Blog, news, books. Retrieved June 23, 2013, fromhttp://www.lessig.org/

Johnson, B. D. (2009). He’s seen the future and it’s a remix. Maclean’s, 122(9), 60.

About – Creative Commons. (n.d.). Creative Commons. Retrieved June 23, 2013, fromhttp://creativecommons.org/about

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