03 Sep

Remixing is the art of taking one idea and making it your own, reinterpreting it.

But how far can we take it? I mean, there are very simple ways to look at it, for example, the Amen break, which has been lifted from an obscure track from the soul band known as the Winstons, and used in a wide variety of music from the Futurama theme to Straight out of Compton to the Junkie XL version of Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation”(featured in Ocean’s Eleven).

Remixing can be simple. Magritte’s Napoleon is one. There is not one pixel in this image that was not taken from either the portrait of Napoleon by David, or one of several pictures by Magritte. Yet, it is a new work that references both.  There is also, entitled “a fair(y) Use tale, which creates a complete narrative out of single words of Disney films.  Some of the remixed images exceed by far the sources too. For example, this painting Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time by Agnolo Bronzino is not all that famous apart from the bottom left hand corner, otherwise known as Cupid’s foot , the foot that Terry Gilliam used on Monty Python to crush things.

One situation is, where does remixing end and where does plagiarism begin?

That is, to me, a completely subjective question. It depends on many variables. Not just legal variables like “is the original still in copyright”, but whether the owners of the original work defend their own rights. For example, there is the case in which Larrikin records took the bandmembers of Men at Work to court accusing them of reproducing large portions of “kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” in their song “land down under”.  The end result was that the band and record company was forced to pay 5% of the royalties of the song backdated to 2002.
There are also tradmark cases, for example, the owners of Milton Glaser’s I Love New York trademark have two people working full time on defending the copyright, sending cease and desist orders to people who infringe upon it (even remixing) simply because if they do not defend the trademark, then they lose the trademark.

However, even if you exclude copyrighted works, there is still a lot of work you can remix.
Works where the author has been dead for more than 75 years.
Works that have been gifted to the people.
Works that have creative commons licenses.

These licenses take numerous forms.
Attribution (you can remix the work in any way you want as long as you attribute the original to the original publisher)
Attribution – share alike (Like attribution, but any resulting works must be shared in the same way as the original)
Attribution-no derivatives: You can spread the work wherever you want, but you have to not change it and attribute it to the creator
Attribution-noncommercial: You can change it however you want, but can’t use it in a commercial way
Attribution-noncommercial-sharealike: You can change it however you want, can’t use it in a commercial way, and you have to license the resulting work in the same way
Attribution-noncommercial-noderivs: You have to attribute it to the original author, you can’t use it in a commercial way, and you can’t change it in any way.

But even if works do not fall into any of these categories, there are still ways you can use material: These are known as “fair use”.

These include, criticism, commentary and educational purposes.

there are four additional factors used to decide whether material is fair use.
First, there is the nature of the derivative work, whether it is used in a for-profit context, or for nonprofit educational purposes. (and the courts also look as to whether such a work is transformative)

Second, the nature of the copyrighted work
(use of factual works are more likely to be usable than fictitious works)

Third, the amount of the work used in a derivative work. If small snippets are used, it is more likely to fall under “fair use” than if large or important chunks are used

And fourth, the effect on the value of the original work. If the derivative work harms the value of the original, then that might damage the likelihood that the work will fall under fair use, although sometimes parodies are exempted from this.

However, in short, it is best to try to stick to non copyrighted works.

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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


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