Remix Culture Spotlight: Walking on Eggshells
What legal anachronism has to do with Bob Dylan, Picasso and Family Guy.
By Maria Popova
We’re big proponents of remix culture here because at the core of our mission lies the idea that creativity is merely the ability to combine all the existing pieces in our head — knowledge, memory, inspiration — into incredible new things. Last year, we featured a brilliant panel with Shepard Fairey and CreativeCommons founder Lawrence Lessig titled Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, followed closely by the excellent documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto.
Today, we bring you Walking on Eggshells: Borrowing Culture in the Remix Age — a new documentary from Yale Law & Technology, offering 24 densely compelling minutes of insight into various facets of intellectual property in the age of remix. From appropriation to sampling to creative influence to reuse, the film is an anthology of conversations with some of today’s most notable remix artists and media theorists, exposing the central paradox of contemporary copyright law: How can something originally intended to incentivize people to create serve to hinder new forms of creativity?
You’re not gonna tell me ‘oh, that’s not creative because you’re using someone’s sampled piano note’ There’s no question that at some point using other people’s recordings is 100% your creativity, and at some points it’s 0% your creativity. Then it’s even trickier because sometimes it’s just this recognition — you recognize that this fits, and isn’t that recognition something amazing that maybe no one else recognized?” ~ DJ Earworm
Let’s just take Bob Dylan or somebody like that, whom we take for granted. Does he have a grocery list, an inventory of all of his influences, all the people he has plagiarized and taken from and sampled? These are things that are part of creativity. They are previous things, previous artworks, previous entities. They already exist. Nothing comes out of your ear, out of thin air.” ~ Joy Garnett
For those of us living on the remix side of things, the film’s thesis is hardly groundbreaking. But what makes it important is that it adds another voice to one of the most necessary and urgent creative conversations of our time, building on a narrative that will continue to bend an antiquated law until it breaks and makes room for a more inclusive, era-appropriate conception of creativity.
Published May 20, 2010