Remember when you were a kid at the school library, hanging out with your friends and drawing pictures during a rainy day during lunchtime? You want to draw something but have no idea what, then your friend draws a flower, and you like that flower but you want it to have different coloured petals. You draw that flower, and your friend accuses you of copying. But! You protest, MINE is DIFFERENT to YOURS. MIIINE has blue and pink petals and YOURS has purple and red.
I remember justifying it to her as taking her idea and making it better – needless to say she didn’t appreciate that. Little did I know, I had just remixed her drawing.
Of course, as any 19 year old would, I primarily associate the term ‘remix’ with music. However, what I didn’t understand was that the meaning of the word remix extends much further than a few music samples thrown together to create a different song.
Remix is a culture, living and breathing in our society. Lawrence Lessig* wrote that remix culture is ‘a society that allows and encourages derivative works by combining or editing existing materials to produce a new product.’ This reshaping of ideas can be anything from remixing music
To reinterpretations of art,
To textual mashups. One of the most popular textual remixes is known as Slash fiction, which is kind of like gay-soft-core-romantic, readable porn. Here’s a slash fiction example in the form of Harry Potter, pretty extensive stuff.
Remix culture is however problematic. Much like my “reinterpretation” of my best friend’s flower there are no clear lines that determine what is copying original content and what is reshaping it. There are two sides to the remix debate.
This article outlines that on one hand there is the movement that believes in making information free. Creative Commons was born out of this movement and is a platform that allows creators to decide how much of their content can be made available; “ it gives them [the creator] an opportunity to make it [content] more available than what the copyright legislation outlines” – Jessica Coates, Australian Centre for Creative Innovation
On the other hand, we’ve got the artists, inventors, musicians and authors who are just generally pissed off that they’re not receiving any real recognition or pay for their work. Filmmaker and copyright laywer Peter Carstairs views remixing as making money off other people’s ideas and creations: “Ripping off another person’s songs isn’t about the free-flow of ideas. It’s about ripping off songs without paying royalties.” Which is probably fair enough.
The problem with remix culture is that the lines of copyright laws are becoming more and more convoluted as the internet pumps out more and more content that can be reshaped, reinterpreted and remixed.
*To see more of Lessig discussing remix culture, see this here video