How We're Living in a Remixed World

In this TED talk, Margaret Stewart, YouTube's Head of User Experience, talks about how they deal with copyright issues by partnering with those who have a claim on intellectual property and, through a complex algorithm of locating possible matches, these partners are given the discretion if they'll allow the video to be posted or not.

Yesterday, I was reminded of one of my favorite videos on YouTube. It's a remix of a phrase uttered by Jack Sparrow in the movie Pirates Of The Carribbean. It's what we nowdays refer to as a mash-up. It's where different content are used to create something new. 

It does take a lot of skill and effort to create a mash-up like this. It is quite inventive and innovative -- not just anyone can do something like this. Even if he used content from big businesses like Walt Disney and others, I feel strongly that the remixed video is something he can call his own.

A friend of mine, a strong supporter of IPR, explains how in the world of medicine, you can claim patent on a molecule (taking into consideration resources and effort in research & development). Competitors, on the other hand, may only be able to use that molecule if it has been changed or if there has been an "inventive step". You see, libertarians are divided on the issue of IPR.

If this "inventive step" concept is accepted then we can assert that, in the video above, even when Walt Disney's discretion continues to allow the video to be posted, they actually have no claim to it because it has been modified so drastically that it is considerably a new piece of work. But where do we draw the line? Is there a way to define "inventive step" in a non-arbitrary way?

This "inventive step" does remind me a lot of The Ship of Theseus concept that shows how change in essence (or in this case originality) is really so arbitrary. An example from Wikipedia:
"John Locke proposed a scenario regarding a favorite sock that develops a hole. He pondered whether the sock would still be the same after a patch was applied to the hole, and if it would be the same sock, would it still be the same sock after a second patch was applied until all of the material of the original sock has been replaced with patches."
I've actually recently been notified of copyright infringement in one of my videos, as they detected I used the song New Soul by Yael Naim but have been allowed to keep it posted.

I did not intend to steal, obviously. The song actually went viral after tons of parodies of the Macbook Air fitting into a Manila envelope. If anything, being liberal about copyright has allowed Yael Naim to be even more popular as more listened to her song and got to know her because users are using her song in their videos. Here's the video:

The era of Web 2.0 really changed the concept of copyright. Entrepreneurs, policymakers, and yes, even artists have to liberalize their position on IPR. I believe it will be inevitable as the internet develops and becomes even more organic and free.

I actually make music myself. In the genre of electronic music, there's a lot of sampling, remixing, covering, and mashing-up that's going on. We're living in a remixed world.


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