Course blog for CSP 11 (Fall 2012) @ Occidental College

The Perfect Remix

For the remix video project, JJ and I put together a video made with popular YouTube remix videos. Behind that song we put a mash-up by DJ Earworm, a popular mash-up DJ, called “United States of Pop 2009”. The song was used because it represents what the new generation has become, a generation of remix. Our generation has developed a passion for remix, it is everywhere in our culture, and the copyright laws have not reacted to this fact. Everyone nowadays can be an author. The creation of the Internet has been the catalyst behind our new generations remix obsession. It has given everyone the tools to be their own author. This can be seen in remix videos all over YouTube and the rest of the internet. In our remix video, “The Perfect Remix”, we aim to bring to light the fact that copyright laws are out of date with the ideals of the current generation, especially the idea that everyone has an opportunity to be their own author.

In the video, we took snippets from the most popular remix videos on the internet, and made our own remix video. We had a selection of many different kinds of videos, but we handpicked the videos with a few purposes. The first purpose was to demonstrate how to properly make a remix video today. We chose videos that really identified how a video can properly fall under fair use. Each of the videos shows transformative uses of the original video. The second use was to choose remix videos that were popular. The essence of choosing a music video is to choose an original video that can resonate with the audience. Towards the end of the video, we even put in our own little remix video. We put in a video of JJ doing his own remix to the background song. This little clip was meant to bring home our overall message: everyone is an author.

Not about the money

The main goal of our remix video was to express our beliefs that music piracy is an ongoing problem because of the greed that is present in the music industry. We used clips of mainly protaganists from different movies and videos to help portray the average consumer, and the antagonist of the clip is used to represent the music industry and the greedy artist.  

Our main argument is that the music industry is overzealous in their stoping of piracy. Compared to all the money musicians have these days, music piracy really isn’t that big of a deal. Money should not be such a big influence on music, what should matter is not the money, but the message. We believe that art should be for art’s sake, not for the profit of the industry. Measures taken to stop piracy are harmful both to the consumer and to the true spirit of music. Our main arguments are that musicians are already quite rich, that money should not be driving music, that anti-piracy measures go too far, and that no matter what they do people are going to pirate music anyways.  

The video begins with Batman’s Joker stating, “All you care about is money.” This is the general message that we are presenting throughout the video. The background song we chose was Chumbawamba’s “Pass it Along mp3 mix”, which is a remix in itself of several songs by artists who have been strong advocates of punishment for music piracy, such as Metallica. An echoing voice in the song adds throughout the song “spectators, but not participants”. This is representative of the consumer’s role in the war on piracy, or in other words, lack of role. People have a general lack of concern with illegal downloading, and since this technology exists, it will never go away. “People are going to do what they want to do,” is another theme that resonates throughout the video. The consumer cannot be stopped.


The Culture of Fear

Our remix video “The Culture of Fear,” is designed to appeal to the viewer’s emotions through audio and visual tools to argue that they should not be afraid to use copyrighted materials in remix videos or personal media projects. The video is broken up into two parts: the culture of fear and the culture of knowledge and participation.

The culture of fear is a concept drawn from Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi’s book Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in the Copyright, and is depicted through a collection of video clips, images, and songs. The video begins with ominous music and news clips about citizens involved in litigation over copyright infringement. Next are images of web news articles which send intimidating messages about copyright law to its readers. We highlight the message through filtered images of copyright-related news articles accompanied by slow, creeping background music, designed to make viewers a bit scared and uncomfortable. The third layer of the culture shows familiar images of copyright warnings that a consumer of media may encounter on a daily basis. These three representations of the culture of fear aim to remind and bring to light the discouraging and intimidating messages that surround copyright law in our media.

The next phase of the video is presented by a quote from Aufderheide and Jaszi’s book and aims to shatter the illusion of fear and inaccessibility when it comes to using copyrighted materials. In this section of the video, we present and encourage the culture of participation and knowledge by showing viewers their rights within the fair use doctrine in United States copyright law. We contrast the culture of fear with uplifting and empowering music and a concise presentation of the fair use doctrine. The purpose of this is to show viewers exactly what rights they have in remixing other people’s work. We send a message in opposition to the news clips and pictures shown in the first part of the video by saying remixing and reusing copyrighted work is a good and legal thing as long as it is done fairly. To display to viewers how it is possible to use copyrighted materials within the fair use doctrine, we present three remix videos that would very likely make a strong argument for fair use. The first clip is use of copyrighted material by a non-profit organization, the second is using the copyrighted material for the new purpose of education, and the final is an example of using a reasonable amount of copyrighted material in a new work. The arrangement of video is meant to be educational as well as somewhat inspirational for other remixes of culture.

Eminem’s song “Not Afraid” plays at the end of the video to reflect the sentiment that the viewer should not be afraid to use copyrighted materials to make new works if they consider the fair use doctrine and apply it appropriately to their works. Our video is video is ultimately designed to bring viewers out of the culture of fear and into an empowered culture of participation according to fair use by presenting them with knowledge of their rights

Copyright Revolution

Copyright Revolution is a remix video that conveys the tension filled relationship between copyright holders and copyright infringers. This video depicts how copyright holders attempt to blockade efforts by society to infringe upon their copyrighted works. Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two Face, serves as a representation of the copyright holders while the Joker represents the copyright infringers. As the song Uprising by Muse begins, the Joker sits solemnly in jail to symbolically represent the oppression society has experienced under copyright law and its application by copyright holders (in this video Harvey Dent/ Two Face). Litigation is a common weapon used by Copyright holders against infringers in order to frighten society about the dangers of what could happen if one decides to infringe upon copyright. Despite the threat of a lawsuit, society, or rather the Joker, continues to break loose on an infringing frenzy in the face of Dent/copyright holders, effectively “burning” the copyright holders (in the case of this video, literally) in the face of their constrictions. A revolution begins as the copyright infringers “rise up and get the power back” from copyright holders.

The Joker is now the one with the weapons, just like society copyright infringers has the weapons of sharing websites, downloading software, and hacking capabilities. While Dent/Copyright holders becomes increasingly angry, the Joker happily continues to create infringement chaos without a care in the world. Unable to understand how to respond, Dent/Copyright holders are being a made a mockery of as the joker/society continues to infringe. The infringers are burning away holders’ money; the tension builds between the two sides. The copyright infringers continue to illegally obtain free copyrighted content boldly in the face of the copyright holders. As time goes on, copyright holders continue to struggle to stop the infringers. Two Face dies and the Joker lives on to continue breaking the law. The copyright infringers have the last laugh.

This video uses the song Uprising by Muse to better explain our argument. Successfully creating the tension and angst that permeates throughout the Copyright Wars, It serves as the voice of the copyright infringers. This is because it explains how copyright infringers will refused to be controlled by copyright holders as they demand access to creative works; infringers seek to stop being degraded by copyright holders, and in the end the infringers have victory in getting their material through what they believe to be just methods.

(C)opyright and Rebellions

Goal: Our goal was to show how strict copyright laws are forcing the average consumer to turn to illegal methods as a way of obtaining material. We wanted to do this through the use of entertaining material, hence the remix video. We used clips with important political figures to symbolize the oppressive copyright holders, and clips of consumer perspectives of copyright and of consumer rebellions.

Argument: Our argument was that current copyright laws are too strict and one-sided towards the producer. In our video, we showed how the law continuously presses down on the consumer as they try to go about their daily lives. As a result of the overreaching law, the consumer is forced to use illegal methods to obtain very simple materials. We used contrasting images and sounds in our video to show this struggle between the producer and government and the consumer. We began with videos of Presidents and CEOs of music industries, and then transitioned into consumer rebellion. The consumer rebellion was demonstrated in the rebellion clips and in the public’s personal opinion on copyright law.

Execution: In our remix, in order to express our argument, we compiled a series of videos composed of previous presidents, law enforcement officials, riots, and most importantly, interviews of unhappy consumers. We began our remix video with short clips, which were compiled to show the restrictions of copyright laws and to show the control of corporate industries over consumers. We utilized clips from “President Obama speech today Syria”, “When Copyright Goes Bad”, and “HARDtalk- The Music Industry- Digital Music & Piracy” because the president and John Kennedy, the CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, symbolize the controlling music industries or copyright holders. The song “Clique” by Kanye West was integrated into the consumer videos because with the click of the mouse one can illegally download digital media, and “Cops” by Inner Circle was used as a voice over for the law enforcement videos. The clips of Mr. Bean in the train and the clip of Mr. Chow from “The Hangover” emphasize how the consumers mock the copyright law by illegally acquiring digital material, thus showing a rebellious side. In the end, the remix video is transformative because the video present an original argument that attempts to show how consumer rebellions derive from the copyright holder’s control.



Battling the Panopticon

Our main argument in creating this video is that copyright law prevents the full creative potential of authors, and the digital age allows for these consumers-turned-authors to fight back. Many of the scenes in our video reflect the nature of the Panopticon, in which there is a constant sense of being watched from all angles. Because the copyright law is so strict, and simultaneously vague, people often do not feel comfortable creating his or her own work in fear that it will not fall under fair use and will subsequently lead to a lawsuit. This fear is heightened by the fact that people feel they are under constant surveillance of the media industries, which is exemplified by how often YouTube videos are removed or flagged for infringement.

To illustrate this argument, we began our video with various clips of people creating their own works, whether it music or written material. The first half of the video is filtered in black and white to represent how outdated the media industries’ ideas of copyright is. The second half of the video shows an appearance of color in the clips, which juxtaposes the idea of the first half of the video with the idea that modern digital culture allows for authors to feel a greater confidence in creating their own work. After the first set of clips, we used scenes where the villains are surrounding the protagonist(s). The notion of being surrounded from all sides reflects the idea of the Panopticon, where one never knows whether he or she is being watched or not, but there is always a sense of panic and fear. This set of clips leads into the colored portion, where we turned to scenes of the protagonist(s) fighting back. The last set of clips presents the villains falling to their demises, showing the inevitable fall of the copyright industries and their idea of copyright law, so long as people continue to create work.

The last element of our video is the music. We used the song “United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage),” by Muse, which in its original form is directly inspired by the book 1984 by George Orwell. We chose this song because of its lyrics, which discuss so-called “wars [that] can’t be won,” and the desire to rebel against a higher power.

How Fair Use Strikes Back


For our remix video, Fair Use Strikes Back, we wanted to exemplify and celebrate remix as a transformative medium. The song, “The Young Person’s Guide to The Orchestra,” acts as the template for our remix video. In music, specifically the classical genre, creating variations of a theme is a common practice. In this song, the four sections of the orchestra draw on the original theme of the music to create distinct variations. We believe that remix, like classical music, has the capability to draw upon a theme from an original work while also transforming it. This transformation through remix creates an entirely new work, thus creating a new aura. Through the remixing an original work, in our case a clip from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, we are removing the original context and creating our own.

Modeling the way the orchestra is split into four sections that draw upon a theme to create variations, we drew upon one original clip to create four very different remixes. Each of the four remixes we created relates more to the tone of the music than to the content of the original Star Wars clip. This content and its difference from the original clip is what makes the remixes a new work with a new aura. Through the different color filters, decisive editing of the original clip, and synchronization with the music, we were able to create four new remixes, all of their own aura. As example, we made the first remix draw upon the flowery and light-hearted sound of the woodwinds section, while utilizing serious fight scenes and manipulating them to appear as dance moves. Contrastingly, we had the third remix play off of the eerie sound of the strings, while utilizing and distorting facial expressions from the original clip.

Our remix is successful because it argues that remix videos are transformative by remixing and transforming a well known clip. Our video ends with Luke gaining the upper-hand (no pun intended) against Darth Vader. This scene is unedited; however, juxtaposed with the previous remixes, this scene celebrates the new rise and power of remix culture, a culture that is here to stay.


Everything Old is New Again

In our remix video, “Eternal Culture and the Public Domain,” we used clips from various adaptations of Frank L. Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” to demonstrate how the presence of the public domain enables culture to stay “forever young.” We started with the earliest surviving Wizard of Oz film, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1910), followed by Larry Semon’s “Wizard of Oz” (1925), and Ted Eshbaugh’s cartoon, “The Wizard of Oz” (1933). We also included examples from Baum’s own thirteen-series collection of “Oz” derivative books and the 1939 edition of “The Wizard of Oz,” which famously featured Judy Garland. Finally, we included a scene from “Walt Disney’s Wizard of Oz” which was released only a year before the story entered the public domain in 1958.

We visually portrayed our argument by decolorizing all the clips dating prior to 1958 to foster a stronger sense of control and lack of creative potential. Once the film entered the public domain, we portrayed all the derivative works in color to illustrate the newfound freedom and possibilities. We demonstrated our theory regarding the relationship between remix and relevancy in many of our clip selections. For example, a portion of a “Family Guy” episode includes a title which states, “The Wizard of Oz Adjusted for Reality.” This clip completely aligns with our argument because the author acknowledges the original work that he is renewing and remixing with his own ideas. We also included a clip from an unreleased movie entitled, “Oz the Great and Powerful” (2013), to demonstrate the ongoing nature of remix culture.

Our background audio selection further exemplifies the inherency of evolution within culture. Music continues to evolve as genres come in and out of popularity. We tracked Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” (1984) through a variety of samples and remixes to show how the song has been adapted to modern culture.  In the end of our video, we returned back to the original Alphaville version to demonstrate how culture is cyclical will inevitably repeat itself. For example, in Kanye West’s song, “Young Forever” he used direct samples from the original song in combination with his own rap and lyric modifications.

Interesting case of attempting to clamp down on fair use

From fellow Oxy instructor Edmond Johnson on Facebook (where I stumbled across this link):

Paul Zukofsky is a violinist, conductor, and former UCLA professor whose father (Louis Zukofsky, 1904-1978) was a semi-obscure objectivist poet. The son inherited his fathers copyrights and is now openly hostile toward any grad student or scholar who dares to write about his father’s works. Check out the extraordinary copyright notice he’s posted on his website…

You can read Zukofsky’s post here.  It’s especially interesting, after all of our talk about the copyright industries, to consider the case of an individual rights owner who is taking this stance, and one that is especially hostile towards academics doing scholarly work.  I wonder what Aufderheide and Jaszi would have to say about this, especially an excerpt like this:

Despite what you may have been told, you may not use LZ’s words as you see fit, as if you owned them, while you hide behind the rubric of “fair use”. “Fair use” is a very-broadly defined doctrine, of which I take a very narrow interpretation, and I expect my views to be respected. We can therefore either more or less amicably work out the fees that I demand; you can remove all quotation; or we can turn the matter over to lawyers, this last solution being the worst of the three, but one which I will use if I need to enforce my rights.

In general, as a matter of principle, and for your own well-being, I urge you to not work on Louis Zukofsky, and prefer that you do not. Working on LZ will be far more trouble than it is worth. You will be far more appreciated working on some author whose copyright holder(s) will actually cherish you, and/or your work. I do not, and no one should work under those conditions. However, if you have no choice in the matter, here are the procedures that I insist upon, and what you must do if you wish to spare yourself as much grief as possible.

1– people who want to do their dissertation on LZ, or want to quote from him in their diss., must, if only as a common courtesy, inform me of their desire to use this material, and obtain my permission to do so. If you do that, and if I agree, the permission will be only for the purposes of the diss. and there will be no charge for limited use within the diss. You will not be allowed to distribute the diss. publicly. Distribution via on-line publication is not allowed. I urge you to keep quotation to a minimum, as the more quotation, the less likely I am to grant permission.

2– people who quote Louis Zukofsky in their dissertations without having had the courtesy to request my permission, and who do so without having obtained my permission to quote LZ, do not have permission to use LZ quotations, and will, in the future, be refused all permission to quote any and all LZ in their future publications, and I promise to do my utmost to hamper, hinder, and preferably prevent all such quotation.

And, finally, here is an interesting analysis of the post.

Lucas Films goes to D(ark Side)isney

Today, although the NY Stock Market is closed and completely submerged, it was announced that Disney bought Lucas Films. Lucas will be stepping down as the chief executive and taking a back seat role in the company.  This also gives Disney a kind of monopoly on the fantasy special effects genre. Does this change our opinions on Lucas, who as we know, has so strongly insisted on moral rights for authors? Will Lucas’s materials be distributed differently and infringements more intensely reported? …Any other general opinions on this?

With this, Disney also announced there will be a Star Wars Episode VII in 2015.


Full Story from the NY Times: