Pirates! 52 million pirates live in the USA. The RIAA has wrongly, in my opinion, criminalized these young people and extorted millions of dollars from them. What is their crime? Downloading music from the internet is one. Remixing and mashing up popular songs to create new songs is another. Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer fighting for the rights of such young people, believes that these mash ups are expressions of creativity. Lessig argues that remaking and recreating songs and clips from videos are “tools of literacy for this generation” (Lessig). So what is all the fuss about?
The songs used for the remixes have copyrights and thus are the intellectual property of the artist who created them. Taking these songs without permission (in most cases, without paying) is called stealing from the artist. But what about recreating them into something new, something fresh? “Rip!: A remix manifesto” focuses on the creative ability of such a remixing artist, Girl Talk. Girl Talk’s music is a perfect example of the debate between creativity and piracy. Brett Gaylor, the creator of the video, believes in three tenets: 1) culture always builds on the past, 2) the past always tries to control the future, and 3) our future is becoming less free. I stand on the side that remixes are a revival of past works, and even work to immortalize those works. Furthermore, these remixes are expressions of creativity and corporations such as the RIAA and MPAA stifle that creativity.
There are two extreme sides on the issue of copyright infringement. One promotes new technology to pick out what parts of a remix come from previously copyrighted material and then use this technology to prosecute the maker of the remix for each sample that was “stolen”. The other side consists of users who want to abolish copyright laws and fight against the law. Lessig offers the example of Lord Blackstone, the creator of the tresspass law. This law was used to sue airplanes that traveled over land, because it was believed that land from the ground to the sky was owned by the landowner. If this doctrine had no significance because every flight would be sued by someone, then remixes made without the intention of using copyrighted songs for profit should also be free of persecution. I think the only way to solve this issue is to very clearly define the term “fair use” and encourage artists to make their work available to use as a platform for new works of art. It is impossible to stop people from downloading music and making remixes, so why not just open the field for true creativity and talent to shine through?