Production 3 – Remix Culture

What Is Remix Culture?

Remix Culture is the term given to a society that allows, and values, the combining of existing works into new forms. This is brought on by a lack of faith in traditional copyright law, as well as the breaking down of barriers between disciplines and eras. Although no society can be said to have truly embraced remix culture, many germs of this idea can be found throughout all societies. From the re-purposing of fables, to the emergence of ‘mashups’ in modern music, remix culture is a new term given to a very well-worn social and artistic technique.

The Inevitability of the Remix

As noted above, the remix is by no means a modern cultural phenomenon. Humans have been updating even the most sacrosanct of cultural artifacts for thousands of years. Hamlet has been fitted to every age and culture on Earth. The Coen Brothers remixed Homer’s Odyssey when they created “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Many musical artists have found their voices through the remix, like Girl Talk and DJ Danger Mouse. Social and political awareness have long been integral to remix culture, such as when Donald Duck shorts were partially overdubbed with excerpts of Glenn Beck’s radio show. This provided an unconventional commentary on Beck, and gives a snapshot of the importance of the remix.

Copyright Issues

Many in the various entertainment industries (music, film, theatre, and so on) view the remix as illegal and illegitimate. This is technically true, as copyright law in most countries does not allow for unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted material, for any purpose. Most remixed productions stand unchallenged – in many cases, as a direct result of certain caveats within those laws. Work that is undertaken strictly for artistic purposes (meaning, little or no financial gain) is from laws that have targeted other remix artists. Even in many of these cases, however, the remix has been seen as a threat to copyright and has been pulled off of various platforms – most prominently, YouTube. [2]

The Future of Remix

Remix, as noted above, is a word given recently to a very old phenomenon. Songwriters, particularly in the American folk tradition, have been taking (some argue stealing) melodies and basic harmony from each other for many years. Bob Dylan is estimated to have lifted two thirds of his early material from singers and songwriters within American music. The debate about originality and homage within art is contentious, with some contending that Bob Dylan (among many others) has essentially built his entire career on a fraud. Kirby Ferguson, on the other hand, has argued that all creative endeavour – whether or not the creator is willing to admit it – is a remix. The debate will continue to rage, at least until copyright law has been updated to deal with the burgeoning remix culture, but the impact of this idea cannot be understated or ignored. [3]

References

  1. Murray, B. March 22, 2015. “Remixing Culture and Why the Art of the Mashup Matters” https://techcrunch.com/2015/03/22/from-artistic-to-technological-mash-up/
  2. Rostama, G. “Remix Culture and Amateur Creativity: A Copyright Dilemma” http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2015/03/article_0006.html
  3. Popova, M. “How Remix Culture Fuels Creativity and Invention” https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/08/14/kirby-ferguson-ted/
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