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

Author Archives: lizziestein1

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

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The video we choose to break down, “A Brief History of Conspicuous Product Placement in Movies,” comes from the Political Remix Video website and presents a critical analysis of the role of advertising and product placement in films.

    
Through the use of clear and successive examples and framing text throughout the film, the video clearly argues its point. Other effective methods include:

  • Using an argumentative title
  • Breaking up the video clips with slides of commentary that introduce what will be argued with each example, which also guides viewers through the video chronologically and conceptually
  • Using text which  frames and adds voice to the video which leads the viewer in the right direction.
    • For example, the text “Now the floodgates were open to atrocities like this…” introduces the clip of actors dancing in the 1988 film “Mac and Me” in which McDonalds is conspicuously advertised. This kind of  provocative language creates a bias. Atrocities and floodgates imply disaster of a devastating nature.
  • Each text preceding a clip is akin to a new paragraph in an essay.
  • Displaying “the title of the film (year), advertisement” on the left corner of the screen corresponding with the appropriate film clip to display the

A work is transformative when “the material has been recontextualized and re-presented for a new purpose, and to a new audience.” (Aufderheidede and Jaszi 81) The clips in the remix video have been taken out of their original context and thrown into a critical environment. The copyrighted materials’ original purpose was for entertainment. The remix transforms this purpose to become evidence in an argument about the prevalence of product placement in films.

This remix video is a clear example of a well-presented argument about the film industry. Through its content and framing of the clips, the argument is presented, in a style we might want to emulate in our remix video. The use of guiding text throughout the video, which serves as a road map to the argument and tone of the piece was an effective strategy that could help us guide our own argument. Other aspects we can take away from this video and keep in mind when we are producing our own are the ineffective ones such as the music and the technique used for the video’s ending. We thought neither the music nor the ending of the video added a new dimension to the overall message of the video in the way it potentially could have. To ensure our film does not fall short in the same way, we plan to be thoughtful in how we convey each aspect of our argument.

Aufderheide, Patricia and Peter Jaszi. Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011.

A Brief History of Conspicuous Product Placement in Movies. Dir. Oliver Noble.Political Remix Video. YouTube, 9 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.politicalremixvideo.com/2011/03/14/a-brief-history-of-product-placement-in-the-movies/&gt;.


When we think of remix, we think of media that has been recontextualized into another work. The same notion goes for sampling as well. However, the film showed in the Cinematheque Presentation featured a different kind of remixers, physical remixers. The film features a group called Survival Research Labs (SRL). What SRL does is create huge robot-like contraptions out of things they find at the dump. Some of their raw materials could include any of the following: an old piano, lawn mower, car parts, or computer. With these machines, the group then puts on shows in order to evoke a sense of fear in their audience members while simultaneously giving an artistic presentation. The concept of the DIY culture that the SRL subscribe to is closely related to remix culture in two ways. 

The first way is that both cultures are very much dependent on others for raw materials. In other words, they sample. Just as a remixer might take parts of previously existing sound or video clips, the Survival Research Labs take parts of previously existing pianos, computers, law mowers, cars, or anything else they can find. In both situations, the groups take content previously used in one scenario, transform it for their specific needs, and recontextualize it into a completely different scenario. 

The other way in which the Survival Research Labs are like remixers is that they rely on a responsive audience. Remix would cease to exist if consumers of media did not respond to what they were hearing. The productions of the SRL work in the same way. Part of the appeal of the SRL shows is the trapped feeling and sense of fear that audience members experience when the machines interact with them up close. Many audience members leave the shows with a headache, an escalated heart rate, and sometimes a ringing noise in their ears. No matter what the reaction is, both remix culture and the SRL are dependent on audience reaction and participation for the continuation of their art. 

It could be argued that remix is part of the DIY culture that the SRL belongs. However, the huge difference between physical remix and digital remix is copyright laws. In the film, I never saw Yamaha trying to sue the SRL for using parts of their lawn mower without proper permission, something that does happen in the world of digital remix. 


The doctrine of “fair use” places modern users of technology and culture between two pulls, a “participatory, collaborative culture” and “the culture of fear and doubt” (Aufderheide and Jaszi 5,7). Many are afraid to work with copyrighted material because they are unsure whether their work will fall into the vague language of the fair use doctrine. According to Aufderheide and Jaszi’s book Reclaiming Fair Use, “knowledge unlocks the door to action, which lets you join the culture of creativity” (5). It is important to be knowledgeable about the fair use doctrine if one expects to claim it for their work. Apparently, Frans Peter Bull Enger, better known as Norwegian Recycling, a famous mash up artist, is well versed in the nuances of fair use: his popular YouTube video “How Six Songs Colilde” has been left on YouTube, untouched by takedown notices, for five years. When evaluating Enger’s video using the “four factors,” as they are often called, one can see why Enger’s video falls squarely within the fair use category.

First, we examine the “transformativeness” or character of Norwegian Recycling’s video, “the most critical element of the fair-use analysis” (Aufderheide and Jaszi 83). This criteria means the new remixed version of the work must be inherently different than the original. What Norwegian Recycling did to transform his work was take audio and visual components of six different music videos and blend them into one seamless mash up. The need for “transformativeness” in a remixed piece is what makes the new work unique, and also different enough from the original to ensure it will not “affect the market because they serve the same purpose as Plaintiffs’ original works” (Aufderheide and Jaszi 87). In the case of “How Six Songs Collide,” another factor of fair use, the market value of the original musician’s work remains unaffected by Norwegian Recycling’s video. Norwegian Recycling has his three full albums available for free download on his website, along with a “donate” button, which appears to be the only place he is accepting money. However, the donations he may receive from his large fan following are not taking revenues from the artists whose work he remixes. In fact, Norwegian Recycling has arguably created an entirely new song by borrowing sound and video clips. Therefore, users still need to purchase these individual songs from the original artists if they want original work. Enger has also considered amount, the third factor, and only takes anywhere form thirty seconds to two minutes, divided out among a five-minute video of each song with which he works. This does not rip off the original artists’ work nor does it compromise the integrity of their work. The fourth factor, which involves taking into account the nature of the original work, is considered to make sure the remixed work does not serve the same purpose as the original. While both the originals and Enger’s video are for entertainment purposes, Enger lacks the ambitions to make money, go on tour, and further his career the way the original artists do. These differing influences behind music-making create a necessary divide in the nature of the original works and Enger’s work.

While it appears Norwegian Recycling has effectively used fair use as “a crucial safety valve in the copyright system,” the fair use doctrine remains vague and is subject to interpretation on a case-by-case basis (Aufderheide and Jaszi 80). Some may argue that Enger used the central part of the songs, a clear focus on the beginnings and choruses of every song he mashed together to show “How Six Songs Collide.” These are often the parts of songs that get stuck in peoples’ heads and can be used as identifiers for those particular songs. However, this argument alone would most likely not support a takedown notice for Norwegian Recycling. Fair use is one of those grey areas where one only needs to be able to articulate why they are more “in” than “out” to be safe from litigation.

WORKS CITED

Aufderheide, Patricia, and Peter Jaszi. Reclaiming Fair Use. London: The University of Chicago Press, 2011. 1-33, 70-93. Print.

Enger, Frans Peter Bull, prod. How Six Songs Collide. 2007. Web. 26 Sep 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JKKl95Ttrc&gt;.

Enger, Frans Peter Bull. 2012. Norwegian Recycling. 26 September 2012 <Norwegianrecycling.net>.


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Copyright laws are designed to “promote the progress of science and useful arts (Madison Article I, Section 8).” Many everyday websites are attempting to do just this. However, they seem to consistently fall short of the noble goal articulated in the constitution due copyright wars resulting from our modern culture and technology. Stumbleupon.com, which has a mission to provide users with individualized internet content based on a profile of interests each member creates is, on the surface, a fun and unique way to discover one’s interests on the Internet. Buried under the website’s thousands of pages of poetry, photography, music, recipes, and more, there is secret and binding literature, the terms of service agreement.

When reading through Stumbleupon.com’s terms of service, one can see traces of the power struggle depicted in William Patry’s chapter, “How the Copyright Wars are Being Fought and Why.” In the section labeled “Term,” Stumbleupon.com clearly reserves the right to ”restrict, deactivate, or terminate your account for any reason” (StumbleUpon). This statement gives the company more power than its users, sharply contradicting my first impression of the sight as an individualized cultural discovery provider, focused on catering to its users interests. This concept of a company’s power over the customer can be seen especially clearly in the South Park episode “HumancentiPad,” where Eric blindly agrees to Apple’s terms of service, subsequently signing his life away. This episode does a painfully wonderful job of depicting the power we as customers give service providers by clicking “agree.”

Companies and service providers such as Stumbleupon.com and Apple are known for their popularity among consumers and reputation for being caterers of customer desires. This is humorously echoed in the South Park episode by character Kyle Broflovski when he says, “everybody knows that everything but apple is stupid!” (Parker). However, upon reading the terms of service and watching the “HumancentiPad,” a new side of these companies was revealed to me, a side that mirrors William Patry’s claims of what the copyright war is, a struggle for power. While Stumbleupon.com makes it clear in their terms of service literature that the “services are made available to you for your non-commercial use only,” (StumbleUpon Section 7, f) it is not without the stipulations discussed above. Through the implementation of their terms of service, both Stumbleupon.com and Apple are limiting consumers’ rights in what users can do with the cultural content they obtain through services provided by these two companies.

By recognizing the fact that very few users actually read the terms of service material, companies like Apple and Stumbleupon.com are secretly in control of their customers’ rights. Users are under the impression that these two companies are all about giving customers exactly what they want and creating an environment of free-flowing and available culture, a consumer’s euphoria. To some extent they are, but what customers fail to realize is that company policy is a juxtaposition of the outward appearances they advertise and is often swept under the rug by the simple click of the “agree” button.

 

 

WORKS CITED

Madison, James. United States. Constitution of the United States. Philadelphia: , 1787. Web. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html&gt;.

 Patry, William. “How the Copyright Wars are Being Fought and Why.” Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. New York: Oxford, 2009. 1-41. Print.

 Parker, Trey, dir. “HumancentiPad.” Writ. Matt Stone. South Park. Comedy Central: 27 Apr 2011. Television. <http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s15e01-humancentipad&gt;.

“StumbleUpon Terms of Service.” StumbleUpon. N.p., 27 Jul. 2011. Web. 6 Sep 2012. <http://www.stumbleupon.com/terms&gt;.