Week 8 Remixing and Copyright

The essays are due on May 4th, so we’re going to start this week with 2 x Essay related tasks, via Ed:

In-class task: in groups of two or three, brainstorm some ideas for the essay. Think about the different technologies that can be focused on, the different practices that can be discussed, the impacts these have had on the music industry, any recent controversies over copyright and intellectual property, etc.

In-class task: write a quick blog post which outlines the structure of your essay, mentioning any supporting evidence.


Ed has also compiled a list of useful resources and theories related to the topics of remix, copyright and authorship, that we’ll be exploring this week. Please read in it’s entirety, taking special note of basic definitions you need to understand, useful reference sites for accessing at times of need, and the RMIT policy for copyright issues online (including your blog) – how well you read, and adhere to this, will affect your assessment.

Remixing brings a couple of interesting questions to the table, one involving law and the other, artistic integrity.

The law argues if you do not have the right to copy a portion of music, no use of this music is authorised without permission (and often payment) to the original copyright holder. In practical terms, legal action tends to be threatened or enforced only when money is involved ( ie songs or song portions used in some commercial context, earning payments). This means a chart topping act is much more likely to be sued than a small band without any releases or a significant bank account. Garage productions aside however, if gainfully employed by a media organisation, if producing a soundtrack for a film being submitted to a film festival, or if publishing material online within a hosted environment ( eg youtube), then the doors are open for legal threats – and you need to be aware of your legal responsibilities. Ed’s post covers that ground well.

Issues of Authorship and artistic integrity?

“Music has always been a craft of borrowing. In traditional, or folk, music, melodies and lyrics were handed down from generation to generation. At every stage, musicians would change the tune or substitute words at will, adapting songs to their own situations.”

The above quote is from the liner notes of the Illegal Audio Art compilation CD (Offered as a free download as part of illegal-art.org,  a website created for an exhibition ‘Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age’, highlighting several key controversial copyright cases of recent decades. Also relevant, with a very similar URL, illegalart.net – home to a variety of sample based music, including Girl Talk.)

Cultural arguments about remixing, as mentioned above, and as touched on in this week’s reading, suggest that existing art and media are raw materials for an artist to create from. What is important, from such a perspective – is not whether you have sampled, but what you are doing with it. Have you added value to an existing work, or are you merely riding on the easy recognition of a very familiar sample? Also of more interest within the cultural realm, are the changing notions of authorship that remixing brings to attention. What does remixing, and newer technologies which facilitate remixing, mean culturally? See Roland Barthes’ notion of the ‘death of the author’, or Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction as key theoretical reference points.

Trying to find a middle ground between legal and cultural arguments, lead Lawrence Lessig to found Creative Commons, and he has several free (and very influential) books available at his site for download, which flesh out his arguments in great detail, and are potentially useful for your essay. See also Creative Commons Australia.

Assorted Remix And Copyright Links:

Copyright related controversy about Soundcloud, which has developed it’s popularity on the backbone of hosting DJ mixes. Further discussion by Wayne + Wax, citing remixes of James Blake as a case study.

Remixtheory.net – assorted writings about remixing.

Soundscape remixing? RJDJ – interactive applications for smart phones, that incorporate and remix any sounds from the microphone in real-time, and (sometimes musical..) create ‘sonic experiences’. RJDJ is built using Pure Data, and the team created a special version for the movie Inception, that ‘transforms the world around you into a dreamworld. It uses augmented sound to induce dreams through the headset of your iPhone and iPod Touch. It will change your perception of reality.’

http://studiomultitracks.com – a collection of separated studio tracks for easy remixing. Found via cory_arcangel.

Also on the copyright front – thanks to delicious.com/s3235243 for drawing attention to the article ‘IIA Fastracks Industry Copyright Code – an ISP lead intiative to limit the liability of ISP’s for copyright infringements made by users. “”Market failure remains a core contributor to the infringement problem. If users have access to more and better content, when, where and in the form they choose to consume it, and at a realistic price, we’re quite confident the motivation for infringement will decline”.

Below, the Kopimi logo, ( ‘copy-me’), which advocates use if ‘you want to be copied‘, a reflection of the idea that ‘only obscurity is worse for a creative than piracy‘.


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