Sep 2010 09

by Andrew E. Konietzky

This week I had a great round-table discussion with friends concerning the state of new media and the changing world around us. Being a writer and podcaster, I have long been a supporter of CC. Whoops! I may have to give a bit of a refresher course first: Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that works to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational and scientific content) in “the commons” – the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, uses, re-purposing and remixing. So I sat down to do a bit of research for my benefit and to show I am not created just out of cheesy films, zombies and strange culture. Well, actually I am, but I do have a stake in this changing world of media.

The world is now a hyper-expanding WikiNation, with information flowing back and forth faster than ever before. Plug in your cranial jack and download the info-burst on this documentary from the global networks. Rip: A Remix Manifesto, in which web activist and filmmaker Brett Gaylor explores issues of copyright in the information age, mashing up the media landscape of the 20th century and shattering the wall between users and producers. He is also the web producer of, a web project dedicated to bridging the digital divide and allowing everyone to participate in online culture. Brett is one of Canada’s first video bloggers and has been working with youth and media for over 10 years, and is a founding instructor of the Gulf Islands Film and Television School.

The film was created over a period of six years, and features the collaborative remix work of hundreds of people who have contributed to the Open Source Cinema website, helping to create the “world’s first open-source documentary,” as Gaylor put it. He also encourages everyone to create their own remixes from this movie, using media available from the Open Source Cinema, or other websites like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace.

[Yuki Suicide in Lane]

The film’s central protagonist is Girl Talk, a mash-up musician topping the charts with his sample-based songs. But is Girl Talk a paragon of people power or the Pied Piper of piracy? Creative Commons founder, Lawrence Lessig, Brazil’s Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and pop culture critic Cory Doctorow are also along for the ride. This thought-provoking film is not about making all things free and destroying progress. The movie is about the changing times and how balance is needed to ensure that innovation is encouraged, not stifled; beneficial to all, not just the powerful; and becomes a matter of social and civil cooperation, not criminal justice.

Rip proposes a manifesto based on four assertions in the world:

  • 1. Culture always builds on the past.
  • 2. The past always tries to control the future.
  • 3. Our future is becoming less free.
  • 4. To build free societies, you must limit control of the past.

This film did a great job of examining the issues surrounding copyright, fair use, and the future of the arts and our culture. The RIAA and MPAA are trying to put a stranglehold on culture in general through their pursuit of media rights enforcement. It is deplorable that, for the most part, they choose the weak and defenseless as their targets in an effort to make an example and scare others away from these activities. One good example of this is the way they go after many small coffee shops and bars that have live music. Every little cafe that wants to have an open mic for local songwriters is often strong-armed into ponying up thousands of dollars a year just in case someone ever plays a cover song there.

Whether you agree or disagree with “remixing” as an art, this film brings to light many of the issues we now have with current copyright laws. The reality is mass media has had a tight control over the flow of information and all that has changed since the Internet and digital life has become common over the last decade. They can try to keep the same draconian holds but will ultimately fail because the Internet is of the people, by the people and for the people. Many things in life would be better if people just grew up, got over themselves, put their ego and wallets aside. Art is art, ideas are ideas, people are people – it doesn’t matter where they come from, all that matters is that we are privileged to see, hear, or experience in our lifetime. Enjoy things for what they are, and remix your world.

Watch RiP: A Remix Manifesto online in HD for free.

Andrew E. Konietzky is a writer, film critic and tech monkey. Some Quantum theories suggest that when the consumer is not directly observing Andrew, he may cease to exist or will exist only in a vague and undetermined state.