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Copyright Law on Trial: Download the Remix Manifesto

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Arts, media, copyright, free culture, Rip! A Remix Manifesto,

Copyright law? Who cares about copyright law? Just about anyone who downloads media—that is, most of us—should care. “This world in which we outlaw copyright criminals is like the Victorians, who pretended that they didn’t all masturbate,” says writer and copyright activist Cory Doctorow in the film Rip! A Remix Manifesto, a documentary that wears its free-culture position on its sleeve as it explores the current muddled state of copyright law.

Inspired by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig and other “copyfighters,” as they’ve been called, the remix manifesto rests on four pillars: 1) culture always builds on the past; 2) the past always tries to control the future; 3) our future is becoming less free; and 4) to build free societies, you must limit control of the past.

To build its case, the film revisits some of the great cultural ripoffs in history, from Walt Disney appropriating ages-old fairy tales for his cartoons to Led Zeppelin riffing off an old blues song to create “Whole Lotta Love.” But Rip’s central sympathetic character is recording artist and DJ Girl Talk, who basically plunders snippets from hundreds of musicians as he builds his cut-and-paste dance-floor mashups. Putting Girl Talk at the center of the film makes for a fun ride. Footage from his mania-inducing shows allows viewers to occasionally blow off some copyrighteous anger, and his music illustrates all the complexities of the copyright debate: It’s both original and derivative, high- and low-brow, rump-shaking and thought-provoking.

True to its mission, Rip! A Remix Manifesto is available for download on a name-your-price basis, and its creator, director Brett Gaylor, has invited people to rip and remix the film. So go ahead: For once, you won’t have to look over your shoulder as you hit “download.”

Source: Rip! A Remix Manifesto