A Remix Manifesto for Our New Copyright Czar

Jonathan Melber, Huffington Post:

President Obama just appointed Victoria A. Espinel to be the first U.S. copyright czar. The position sounds like one more unnecessary addition to Washington bureaucracy (and it probably will be), but Espinel actually has a real opportunity to help fix our profoundly broken copyright laws, which–rather than fostering creativity, as they were originally intended–now inhibit it at every turn.

Over the last century our copyright system has been co-opted by large corporations whose profit motives often conflict with the fundamental goals of copyright policy. Indeed, the job of copyright czar was created as part of yet another industry-approved intellectual-property law that ratchets up enforcement and strengthens copyright protection despite any real evidence that such measures are necessary, let alone desirable. (Full legislation here.)

If she hasn’t seen it, the first thing Espinel should do is watch RiP: A remix manifesto, Brett Gaylor’s superb documentary about the serious social and economic damage caused by our overly aggressive copyright regime.

The film makes its point by focusing on the culture surrounding remixes: those multimedia, digital mashups that exemplify expression in the internet age. Its central character is the popular musician Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis), a remix artist whose songs are made entirely from digitally manipulated samples of other songs. Gillis’ instrument is his laptop. Given the history of music as one of influences, sampling and (analog) remixing, he doesn’t see what he does as any different from what Led Zeppelin did when they took “You Need Love” by Muddy Waters and turned it into “Whole Lotta Love.”


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