Rip: A Remix Manifesto

April 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Brett Gaylor’s 2008 documentary, Rip: A Remix Manifesto, discusses intellectual property (IP) and the laws that protect it. Girl Talk (AKA Gregg Gillis) is an artist who takes small parts of popular songs, then remixes/mashes them up to create a new, unique song. He doesn’t get permission from the artists  to use their songs. He’s yet to be sued by anyone in the music industry, but Lawrence Lessig–a Harvard professor–says it is only a matter of time before an artist does. Girl Talk has gained popularity and performs at well-known music festivals like Coachella and SXSW.

Here’s what Girl Talk’s music sounds like:

Music industry execs are pissed: what Gregg Gillis sees as art, they see as stealing. I look at music industry execs as greedy and ridiculous monkeys in suits. Hey look, we’re all making observations.

What is IP?

Intellectual property is imagination made real. It is the ownership of dream, an idea, an improvement, an emotion that we can touch, see, hear, and feel. It is an asset just like your home, your car, or your bank account (via U.S. Patent and Trademark Office).

There are four ways to protect intellectual property:

  1. Patents
  2. Trademarks
  3. Copyrights
  4. Trade secrets

When you copyright something, the copyright lasts your lifetime+70 years. After that, it falls into something called the public domain. No permission whatsoever is needed to copy or use public domain works. There are a lot of stipulations for what is considered to be in the public domain because the laws have changed a lot over the years.

How might IP laws affect medical research?

The documentary also looks at intellectual property from the medical-science perspective, which is something I hadn’t thought of before.

So say someone (we’ll call him Tom) patents his idea for a cure for cancer. Because his idea is patented, the next guy (let’s call him Joe) cannot use or build on this idea because Tom called shotgun on it first. But what if Joe’s idea isn’t exactly the same as Tom’s, it’s somewhat distorted or it only uses a fraction of it to create a whole new idea? Doesn’t matter. Joe can’t use it. The cure for cancer could be out there…but won’t be utilized because people are greedy and hate sharing.

Everything in this world derives from a previous idea. Movie ideas come from books. Book ideas come from movies. Last night I cooked a pasta dish from a recipe I found online, but instead of using mozzarella, I used Parmesan. I tweaked it to my liking. By allowing others to take something we make and turn it into something better, we’re able to create amazing things. If we start putting patents on EVERYTHING, no one will be allowed to touch anything without getting sued. Creative commons is a Web site where users put their shit on it and give others permission to take it and use it or turn it into even more awesome shit. I think that more ideas and goods should be free to for others in the public to build upon and expand.


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