Piracy Is the New Radio- A Mashup About Mashups

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This is a mashup about mashups. A mashup takes separate preexisting parts and mixes them together to create a novel hybrid entity. Or something like that.

This was a theme of postmodern art throughout the picasso-collage20th century, stretching back to Picasso's early experiments with collage (such as his Still Life seen on the right, from 1914). It's also become an important hot button issue today as the forces of culture and creativity clash with the world of corporations and copyright law.

The following resources almost all came through my Facebook feed at one time or another, and I've collected them in my e-dragnet to be reproduced here. So here goes. First up, the trailer from the 2008 documentary RIP!: A Remix Manifesto, which should set the tone for what follows. Among others, the film includes interviews with Lawrence Lessig, a law professor and activist that's one of the leaders of the Free Culture Movement.


Next up is a pair of statements from a couple of high profile (postmodern) artists. The first is from Banksy, the famous graffiti artist and provocateur from England. He writes:

People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant commentsbanksy-2 from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are “The Advertisers” and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.







And then there was this passage from the filmmaker Jim Jaramush that made the rounds recently, mainly with positive response, although not only. (When I posted this on my FB wall there were two objections, one from a PhD student in philosophy and one from a woman who is a musician. There's obviously still grey areas and conversations to be had around this evolving topic).


Apparently copyright and fair use laws are more strict in Europe than they are in North America. However, according to a recent article, 'The Dutch Look to Legalize Mashups'. The author reports:  pulpvader

Fred Von Lohmann, chief copyright counsel for Google, told attendees in The Hague, copyright holders should embrace new technologies rather than fearing them. And governments should introduce as much copyright flexibility as possible to allow creativity to flourish.

The political theorists Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt are keenly aware of the importance of this issue for contemporary political economy and, for them, for cultural evolution and emancipation too. In their latest work Commonwealth they write:

In the realm of the information economy and knowledge production it is quite clear that freedom of the common is essential for production. Cinemart-Yoda-470x611As Internet and software practitioners and scholars often point out, access to the common in the network environment- common knowledges, common codes, common communication circuits- is essential for creativity and growth. The privatization of knowledge and code through intellectual property rights, they argue, thwarts production and innovation by destroying the freedom of the common. It is important to see that from the standpoint of the common, the standard narrative of economic freedom is completely inverted. According to that narrative, private property is the locus of freedom (as well as efficiency, discipline, and innovation) that stands against public control. Now instead the common is the locus of freedom and innovation- free access, free use, free expression, free interaction- that stands against private control, that is, the control exerted by private property, its legal structures, and its market forces. Freedom in this context can only be freedom of the common (p.282).

Neil Young caused a big stir recently when he came out in support of file sharing. "I look at the Internet as the new radio. I look at the radio as gone", said Young. "Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around".

In a recent interview Chris did with spiritual teacher Thomas Hubl for Beams and Struts, Hubl spoke about creativity and the culture of copyright. Hubl:rhizome-radar-21305479

I think continuously innovative people are not just taking raindrops, they are living in a waterfall [of creativity]. So some people when they are creative they collect once a drop of light, that is a new idea, and then they say 'Oh I copyright this'. Then they put a copyright on it and they make a business from it. I believe copyrights are actually a reduction of our intelligence. We need copyrights because many people are not able to honor and respect the things that people bring into life. But actually it reduces our intelligence because so many people are stuck on their copyright that we miss the point--that no idea belongs to nobody and when we bring fruits it's not a personal thing, it's an impersonal thing. So there is no one there who needs to take a copyright.

But as long as we are motivated by our existential fear we are living in the world of the taking people. Taking people are people who constantly look at situations for what they can get for themselves. In this [taking] world you will never have enough because everybody is always looking for what they can get. In the giving world, which is the next level of evolution, people, because they are so rich from within, they become creative wells, like pools where water comes out. If you live in a world of giving people you will always have enough because everybody is just overflowing...But if we are so separate like we are today, in this hyper-individualized, postmodern society then it's a problem. But it's not a problem of the outside world, it's a problem of our consciousness

And to wrap up this mashup about mashups, the fourth and final video in the Everything is a Remix series. As always, feel free to share your thoughts on anything you've read or heard in the comment section!


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  • Comment Link Bruce Sanguin Saturday, 18 February 2012 05:27 posted by Bruce Sanguin

    This interests me as an author Trevor. What I mean is that it's interesting to be hearing someone being interviewed and they seem to be presenting an idea from your book, and feeling no apparent need to give credit. I personally go to great lengths to try to keep track of where I got images and ideas from, but honestly sometimes you just can't remember. But I confess to still getting tweaked, and having to do an ego check. What kills you is the person who asks you to repeat something you've said, and then 10 minutes later, out on stage, spits it out like it came to them out of the blue. (It happens).

    I've discovered repeatedly throughout my years as an avid reader that some idea that I associated with a particular person actually originated with an earlier writer, usually some obscure academic.

    I once was accused by a prominent author of stealing his idea, even though in the book I bent over backward to credit said person. This person threatened to sue me. This person wanted nothing less than absolute obeisance.

    I know that Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow have given their blessing to anyone to use any of their ideas freely and not worry about crediting them. I think Thomas has got it right. Tap into the creative source and the ideas keep coming. It's bizarre to believe that they belong to an individual from a non-dual worldview.

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Monday, 20 February 2012 18:37 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Thanks for your reflections Bruce.

    I agree that you can't always keep track of where you've been influenced, and although I respect the healthy culture of giving props to where you've borrowed from, at some point I'm not sure it really matters anymore (or at least that's what I'm feeling these days). I've seen Keith Richards interviewed about his influences, and if this song might've been influenced by this or that guitarist, and he always just kind of throws up his hands and says (to paraphrase) "everything that comes in, will one day come out". He's just this huge semi-conscious sponge absorbing all these sounds at one time or another, and when he creates he just sort of opens the spigot and lets it all flow out. This sounds about right to me (as does much of what comes of out of Keith's guitar. Case in point!- http://bit.ly/9ne1Pn).

    Some of us have been having a similar experience here at Beams. We're spending so much time in this mutual learning environment, closely reading the work of so many others, that sometimes I don't know where I begin and others end, there's just this huge mixing continuum of creativity and shared ideas. At some point you stop trying to reference or remember the source of every idea, and you just open up and write, let the rivers flow together and come out on the page. I think what matters most is what the end product is and how that impacts on others and the world. People can steal/borrow/mutilate/transform my ideas all they want if they're contributing to human evolution and the health of the whole-Earth community. That's what ultimately makes me happy, and if that's happening, I don't care if I get referenced at all. I'm reminded of the 'nurse-log' metaphor here, and what Schopenhauer wrote about genius there.


    I agree that it's bizarre to believe that an idea belongs to an individual. As I rewatched the two videos in this piece with my partner last night, this idea was becoming increasingly bizarre to me. It's like George Harrison getting sued over a chord progression or whatever. Can you imagine sitting there one day, you open up to the creative spheres, and out pops a killer riff. And then you now think you "own" it and no one else can ever use it!! Sounds like selfish children in the sandbox to me. It is the mindset of a 'taking' culture as Thomas says. I think it's a crime that those old hip hop albums are being locked away under copyright like that, these treasure troves of beats and grooves and hooks. This is a private hording that negatively affects the possible happiness of the greater human community, which don't seem right at all.

    There's still the problem of remuneration and people trying to make a living etc. I'm not sure how that looks/transforms as we move further and further into the sharing/free-access type future. I'll have to look further into people like Charles Eisenstein and Douglas Rushkoff and others who are supporting the development of open source and gift economies and the like. I wonder how they're thinking about this topic. anyway, I'll stop there, thanks again for the reflections Bruce.

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