I just recently watched RiP: A Remix Manifesto. Here is what I learned about culture being controlled by the few:
Copyright laws, as we all know, have been getting out of hand. Napster is old news, the countless law suits that have been filed against children have come and gone – distribution companies have been going crazy trying to control that thing labelled INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. This is essentially the control of ideas. Right now there is a war over ideas where the battleground is on the internet. Internet’s purpose to share information and communicate ideas, to create a media literate culture, where our language has become mash-up. Consumers have become creators. But the people who OWNED the culture that we have started to remix have been freaking out over their payday. They have been using infinite money and power to protect the culture that supposidely own.
1. The Future Always Builds on the Past
This is essentially saying that new ideas are based upon old ones – well duh. But this is what is at stake, the possibility of new ideas being created. Artist do this all the time – just look at Girl Talk or even Thomas Edison. This is dependent on a healthy Public Domain but our public domain is not a healthy space. Just look at the Birthday song, it does not exist within the public domain (now all the time that people sang Happy Birthday to me in a restaurant makes sense). In order to HUM this song in public you are legally bonded to pay, not Patty Smith Hill (1868-1946) or Mildred Jane Hill (1859-1916); you would be paying Warner/Chappell. Where that song alone brings in millions of dollars of revenue for that company.
How did this happen?
Well it all started out with the printing press, where the concept of spreading out ideas across the globe began. The dilemma was that those that came up with new ideas needed to find a way to profit from themselves. This solution was the first copy right law; which was created in1708, as the Statue of Anne. The law made it so that for 14 years that new idea belonged to its owner but after that it fell into public domain. Where anyone can take it and play around with it. Of course over the years new copying machines have been invented. Each disrupting the business model that has come before. Each technology has been copying ideas that didn’t pay the copyright owner. This could all be seen in Napster. Where the control has been completely disrupted. But this is the difference, Napster became a peer-to-peer file sharing tool and it has now involved into torrent sites, such as pirate bay, to individual files being uploaded for users to download for themselves. We have built up the biggest library in user history. We have let go of the record industry because we ourselves have become DISTRIBUTORS. This has made the RIAA and the Motion Picture Association of American very angry since they represent: Disney, Timewarner, Viacom, NewsCorp, BMG and General Electric, who own more than 90% of media holdings in the United States. Six giant companies own culture.
2. The Established Power of the Past will ALWAYS try to Control the Future
This is seen in all the countless lawsuits that have been issued against citizens. 52 millions have been touched by this plague. In comes Lawrence Lessig author of FREE CULTURE (a book that inspired RiP: A Remix Manifesto and has set this blogger’s blood on fire). This man has been setting off the alarm all over the world about American policy. A policy that has harmed FREE SPEECH. Copyright is out of control and has been manipulated to just generate maximum profit. What these lawsuits represent is the six giant companies that are not allowing YOU to criticize what they have done; are not allowing YOU to look at culture and play with it; but most importantly they are not ALLOWING YOU to create.
Lessig believes that this remixing that we see through youtube, vimeo – girl talk, gives birth to a new democracy even a new literacy. This is what the established power want to control. Who do we have to thank for this? The Disney Empire: the Disney Empire extended the years of copyright to the individual and to companies up to 75 years. Everything has become locked up because the bill the Disney initiated into a law. So basically, if you want to be a mash-up artist you need to work outside of the law.
3. Our Future is Becoming LESS Free
Digital Rights Management! Ever heard of this? This is a corporate software that decides what you can and cannot copy onto your computer. Cracking the vault to this software means jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Copyright has gone out of hand, it has started to put locks on citizens – children (WTF). Entertainment lobbyist of the United States have pushed for tougher laws against copyright infringement ever since the internet has become public. United States citizens (and I’m sure Canadians) have been sued and forced to settle for downloading songs. This is all happening because these companies do not want to change with the times – they can’t fathom a world where consumers are in control, where the power is given back to the people.
This whole copyright issue does not just affect artistic domain but it affects all different parts of culture. Let’s look at the scientific culture. Where broad ideas are patented – yes. In order for a scientist to do his or her job accurately they need to do come up with new ideas. By doing this they need to do research, some research and perhaps some more research. Through this research they need to take samples and see what works. But as I mentioned before, some broad ideas have patents on them (they belong to somebody else = copyrights), which means that if you come up with a slightly different idea, after doing all that research, if its core lies within a patented idea, that new idea is discarded. Discarded, they can’t use it.Oh, does that mean that a cure for Cancer and Aids could have been made already? Yeah, probably.
The 21st Century has become a century of intellectual property where our ideas are being controlled. The United States Government has a branch that is invested in the economy of ideas which has to do with intellectual policy. This has affected global trade. How? Well just look at shopping malls where everything is made outside of the United States (China). The United States Government convinced the worlds economies to adapt laws that prohibited the copying of American ideas without American permission. In exchange it required all the companies that wanted to manufacture things and export them to American to adopt AMERICAN copyright laws. If they didn’t they would not be able to sell physical goods in America. This all happened in the 1990s. Thank God that not all of the WORLD ECONOMIES followed this law, just look at the ripped off Disneyland in Beijing. A decade later they are still continuing to look at intellectual policy. Well their TRADE DEFICIT HAS GONE UP. Do we not think it is time for them to focus on fair trade agreements and environmental laws? Oh right, the Copenhagen Summit thing failed.
4. To Build Free Societies You need to LIMIT the control of the PAST.
Hope is breed down south. Just look at Brazil, where they defied patented American laws (Intellectual POLICY) on HIV medication and produced their own copy of the drug at a fraction of the price. Finally, an act of life from Government. We can either choose to take control or be raped by corporations. I for one do not want to live n a world full of digital billboards. There needs to be a balance of intellectual property where the public domain needs to be re-stablized. Copyright laws need to be loosened. Giant corporations need to evolve with the rest of us because I can’t live in a world where I need to beg to listen to Girl Talk.
So please join the movement. Join the Manifesto. We are made up of collaborators where we can create, share, change laws and act. The future may look bleaker than black but I truly believe that if all voices are put together, something will happen. I’m not big on looking upon one hero to make a change; I’m big on seeing multiple heroes. The only way that I can think of is to open up your voice.