Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Remix Culture?

I recently completed a design project for a client that included stills from classic films, and I thought a lot about copyright issues regarding photos of iconic film stars and movie set photographs. It’s complicated. One of the new sites I found, The Center for Social Media at American University, explores some of these new concerns, specifically the Fair Use aspects of “transformative” treatments of copyright material. Here is a short description of their findings:

“The study, Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copyrighted Material in User-Generated Video, by Center director Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi, co-director of the law school’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, shows that many uses of copyrighted material in today’s online videos are eligible for fair use consideration. The study points to a wide variety of practices—satire, parody, negative and positive commentary, discussion-triggers, illustration, diaries, archiving and of course, pastiche or collage (remixes and mashups)—all of which could be legal in some circumstances.”

The most entertaining part of the report is a wild, funny and thoughtful list of videos in each of the “gray” categories. My personal favorite so far is Evolution of Dance, but there is so much original splicing and cutting and reuse in each of the examples, and each of them may or may not fit in the category of Fair Use. At the end of this page is a video with further videos that are designed to generate discussion and debate.

There is much creativity in the user generated space, and much of it builds on unauthorized uses of copyrighted material. In this new era of participatory media, where should the line be drawn between infringement and fair use?

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