RiP: A Remix Manifesto
By Maria Popova
It’s no secret we’re big proponents of remix culture around here — and strongly believe that the cross-pollination of ideas, the fundamental backbone of creativity, should be celebrated rather than hindered by copyright law. Which is why we love RiP: A Remix Manifesto, a documentary about copyright and remix culture.
Filmmaker Brett Gaylor, of Opensource Cinema fame, digs deep into the flaws of copyright in the information age, exploring the ever-murkier line between content consumers and producers.
The film echoes the excellent REMIX panel from a couple of months ago, featuring CreativeCommons founder Lawrence Lessig and the now-iconic Shepard Fairey. Not coincidentally, Lessig is a key player here as well, along with Brazil’s Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and BoingBoing’s own pop culture critic, Cory Doctorow.
RiP deals with the absurdities of copyright law — did you know, for example, that you have to pay royalties every time you sing Happy Birthday in a theater, restaurant or any other public space? Worst part: You wouldn’t even be paying to the two sisters who wrote the song — they’re long dead — but to Warner/Chappell, the world’s largest corporate music publisher.
RiP isn’t merely a documentation of the changes taking place, it’s a proposition — a manifesto, actually — for a new view of intellectual property that inspires, not obstructs, creativity.
In true walk-the-walk manner, the filmmaker has made all the footage available on Opensource Cinema, free for anyone to remix, while the film’s soundtrack is an open call for fan submissions. And for the ultimate new media cherry-on-top, if you live in the U.S., you can download the film under a pay-what-you-want model. (Remember how much we love those?)
Ironically, the very act of putting this documentary together is illegal by current copyright legislature — Gaylor’s use of samples by remix artists, whose work is in and of itself illegal, also violates the law. Doing it the legal way — getting clearance by paying royalties to the hundreds of copyright owners, most of whom aren’t even the original creators but mere media holding companies who bought the rights over the content — would’ve cost well over $4 million, making RiP the most expensive documentary ever produced.
And if that’s not a brilliant allegory for the fundamental brokenness of copyright law, we don’t know what is.
Published June 5, 2009