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Re-Mix Culture, copyright law. (Rip!)

The rules of copyright are antiquated. They no longer apply to this new digital domain in which they operate. Copyright was originally created to protect and empower artists. They are now being used, particularly by the RIAA, to impart unfair power over artists work they control. This is an attempt to scare people into abiding by laws that need to be re-evaluated for this digital time. The re-evaluation of these laws might destroy large record industries that the RIAA are in the business of protecting.

The RIAA tried to sue a 30-year-old single mother 3.6 million for downloading 24 songs. At the end of the lawsuit the RIAA ended up getting $222,000 from her. For downloading two dozen songs. This is an absurd injustice. The RIAA saw that she had shared the songs 1700 times, and so they were suing her for each person she shared it with. If you just install Kazaa, the program she was using, download a few songs and leave it running it will automatically share thongs songs with others. Thats how Kazaa is designed to work. Most users don’t go through the preferences and disable sharing music with other people. The RIAA are using lawsuits like this one to scare people into not sharing. It is a definitive example of scare tactics. “DON’T DOWNLOAD MUSIC, OR ELSE WE WILL SUE YOU AND RUIN YOUR LIFE”.

Girl Talk just released his new album for free.

“While posting the album as a free download on the Illegal Art label’s site allows [the new album] to reach his fan-base quickly and with minimal cost, Gillis spent more time on this album than any previous release and considers it the most fully realized and evolved manifestation of the Girl Talk aesthetic.” (

Girl Talk samples an insane amount of songs and blends them together in a creative symbiosis of sound that is unlike anything else. His new album is 71 minuets long and samples 372 different songs. His music tests copyright laws. Anyone that hears Girl Talk can’t argue, it is an artistic work of originality and creativity. It doesn’t make sense to make it illegal, but it doesn’t really fit within the black and white perception of copy-right law the RIAA wants the public to believe in.

This re-mix culture wants to share, chop up, re-attribute and re-create whats already there. To make something illegal is to drive it underground. It does not stop it from happening, it just incriminates a section of society. Entire audio tracks are being removed from youtube video’s because a small section of the video might contain a song by a band. It is a pointless destruction of this creative cultural moment. After 3 years, 5 months, and over 41,883,433 views, Rick Astley has finally asked Google to pull his video from YouTube after making no real money from it. This is all that remains.

This remix culture is being prosecuted at its base: the illegal download. Thats where the evil people hang out, trading files. Sharing is a basic part of being human. Blocking it off unnatural.

“Why go after someone when clearly they’re just trying to make music.” .. “These laws are just inhibiting the flow of culture and music.” – Gills. (

In 2005 a law-suite, Bridgeport V Dimension Films, set copyright law to say ‘you cannot sample without paying for it’. A song by the N.W.A. took two seconds from a Funkadelic song, slowed it down, and looped it. They did not ask permission and did not pay anything for this two-second shred of sound. The court ruled in favor of the company that sued on behalf of Funkadelic (Bridgeport).

The ruling read:
“Get a license or do not sample. We do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way.”

“If you sample, you license, period.” A lot of people called this the death knell for hip-hop because sampling was so prevalent.

Girl Talk has not been sued yet, which is strange in light of this 2005 court case. It goes against what the courts said. You can buy Girl Talk CDs in record stores. Girl Talk sold his first CD, had a pay-what-you-want model to download his second (including $0), but his new CD is completely free. There isn’t even a donate button, just a download link. I feel like this is an interesting statement from him on the issue. (

Hopefully Lessig will come through!


  1. Sydnie wrote:

    How come no one has commented on this post? This is a great post! I’m with you about copyright. The issue is that the mindset hasn’t caught up with the technology. The only thing the corp. see is dollars or lack of them so they think of the way they have dealt with this issue in the past. Sueing is an old method. It won’t stop people from downloading music nor will it stop people from making this new type of music. The RIAA should find a new way of making money because relying on copyright is a house built on sand.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:22 am | Permalink
  2. Samuel Lo wrote:

    The purpose of copyright is to protect the creation and idea. But some corporations misuse the copyright law. Do you think it is the time to rethink the purpose of copyright law?

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink
  3. Carol Welker wrote:

    Hi Alex…enjoyed your post. I think the issue involving the 30 year old mother was ridiculous. I think a stern letter would have been much more appropriate. I don’t agree with illegal downloading (artists have to make a living too), but the rights the courts are supporting are a little extreme.

    Regarding Girl Talk…I honestly haven’t reached an opinion either way. On one hand I think he is definitely disregarding copyright laws, however on the other hand, he’s not really profiting so I don’t really see any harm in what he’s doing.

    Friday, November 26, 2010 at 6:07 am | Permalink
  4. Kknight wrote:

    Preach it, Alex! Of course, the interesting twist is that the RIAA is no longer suing individuals and as of this week, the Department of Homeland Security is seizing domain names of P2P networks.

    It’s a brutal strategy. Persecuted individuals raised public empathy. Persecuted torrents will likely only result in apathy.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink
  5. Alan H. Rose wrote:

    Alex, I really enjoyed your blog post. Two things stuck out to me in particular. First, your sentence, “This is an attempt to scare people into abiding by laws that need to be re-evaluated for this digital time.” Although it is a tough subject, I have to agree. Scare tactics may work in certain situations but this doesn’t seem to be the appropriate place and time to use them. Also, when you were describing Girl Talk, it made me think of all the “remix” videos people have put together of now famous YouTube videos such as “David After the Dentist”, “Scarlett Takes a Tumble” and most recently “Bed Intruder, Antoine Dodson”. Are these also copyright infringement?

    Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink