Copyleft

I watched the film Rip today. It’s about intellectual property from the point of view of a remixed music fan.

He makes some good points and there’s some outstanding remixes of video and music. The film is as much about showcasing how amazing remixed work can be as making an argument against copyright laws. The main point was that all culture is a regurgitation of past culture. Originality is nothing but a new combination of existing ideas. So why shouldn’t people be allowed to take other people’s work and fiddle around with it until it’s something different? More specifically, music or video work? Musicians rip each other off all the time, especially chord sequences. Are chord sequences going to end up copyrighted 10 years down the line? Led Zepplin ripped off Muddy Waters big time. Girl Talk does mashups of old songs, creating something that sounds more different to the originals when you compare it to the difference between Led Zep and Muddy W. songs.

The one thing the film fails to address is how we are going to make money in a world without copyright. I fully agree that people should be allowed to remix other people’s ideas – how else can culture evolve? – but there has to be a limit. Perhaps this limit is being pushed too far at the moment. Perhaps we need a better definition of what remixing is.

If someone took a design I did and copied it in China for example (this happens a lot) and then sold it for cheaper than I could because their manufacturing costs are less, I would be VERY ANGRY. If someone used my work as an influence and executed a similar idea in a different enough way, I would be flattered. There is a grey area. How different does the design have to be to not infringe copyright laws? How different does it have to be to not be copying? How different does it have to be to not upset the designer? Are these the same question?

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