"If you’ve never watched it, Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix” series
(which was recently updated from the original version that came out years ago)
is an excellent look at how stupid our copyright laws are, and how they have
really warped our view of creativity. As the series makes clear, creativity is
all about remixing: taking inspiration and bits and pieces from other parts of
culture and remixing them into something entirely new. All creativity involves
this in some manner or another. There is no truly unique creativity.
And yet, copyright law assumes the opposite is true. It assumes that most
creativity is entirely unique, and when remix and inspiration get too close,
the powerful hand of the law has to slap people down. As such, copyright is
often anti-creative. It is designed to slap down those whose creativity reveals
just a little too openly how the sausage is made.
Most often, the slapping down of creativity targets marginalized creators who
don’t have the power to stand up and speak out. This is why the recording
industry only seemed to really get worried about copyright law locking down
entire styles of music once popular white artists started getting sued.
Of course, back in the 80s and 90s, when it was mostly black hip hop artists
getting sued for sampling, there was much less concern outside of specific
music communities, and we’d get ridiculous court rulings that refused to
consider things like fair use at all.
It would have been nice if society had taken this issue seriously back then,
recognized that “everything is a remix,” and that encouraging remixing and
reusing the works of others to create something new and transformative was not
just a good thing, but one that should be supported. If so, we might not be in
the utter shitshow that is the debate over generative art from AI these days,
in which many creators are rushing to AI to save them, even though that’s not
what copyright was designed to do, nor is it a particularly useful tool in that
However, as we’ve explained, the legacy gatekeeper middlemen (whom copyright
was designed to benefit over the actual creatives) have spent so many decades
pushing propaganda and nonsense about how copyright was the only tool by which
creatives could protect themselves (all while using that strengthened copyright
to enrich the gatekeepers, while exploiting the creatives) that many people
don’t quite realize how they’re playing into the hands of the biggest companies
by demanding copyright come to the rescue."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics