Turn The Page, Another Opportunity for Change

Copyright, Remix, and Mashup Multimedia Authoring Essay

This was a project due for my Multimedia Authoring class I took this semester at CCBC.

Willis Aybar
Multimedia Authoring 109
Section C1A
Doug McNamara

Mashup Research Paper

            Copyright laws and its enforcement affect the design and production of Multimedia. On either end there are many who can debate whether these laws are respecting the ‘author’ or limiting the creative individual. These laws prohibit us from creating content in many ways as well as protect our creations from people who aren’t as creative. There is no question as to why they are in place, but one can still ask if they are too harsh, limiting the freedom of self expression and individuality.

One way or another, at least once in our lifetime, we will create something. When we do we will either be: proud of ourselves, try again, or will just leave it at that. Let’s take the latter, what if our creation became a wonder to many people who actually wanted to buy our creation, reproduce copies of our creation, or even change it and add a touch of their own originality to it. Would you care? Would it matter? If it could bring financial gain would you pursue it? Many answers exist. In order to understand we must question, the answers vary as much as the individual and due to Copyright laws we have limited options.

Copyright laws affect Multimedia in many ways. Living in the digital age we have access to information and the use of it at a much faster rate than ever before. It’s not difficult to say that if you think you have created something, someone else somewhere in the world has done something similar or just like it. If this someone already registered that body of work and finds yours to be mimicking the same work or using a portion of it and calling it your own, you could be at fault. Certain copyright laws almost prohibit you from total creative freedom. On the photography and image sharing website Flickr.com, There was over half a million images of the Golden Gate Bridge. I believe there are only so many angles you can actually shoot something from and many of those images are pretty much the same.

Speaking on the Demsetzian trend in copyright law, Brett M. Frischmann explains that it is almost unnecessary to block people from creating using what others have created. “Social demand for individuals’ access to and use of copyright protected works often exceeds private demand. Purchasers’/licensees’ willingness to pay reflects only their private demand and does not take into account value that others might realize as a result of their use.” As it is necessary to be protected it is also demanded that we allow others to expand on our ideas.

Under the Copyright Law of Fair Use (US Gov), we can only take a body of work and reproduce that particular work to be considered fair only if we use such work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and/or research. If you wanted to use that work or a portion of it with something you wanted to create it would not be considered fair use, unless we went through the hassle of obtaining permission. Our limitations vary from a creative standpoint which I believe puts a hold on our ideas. Under laws we are bound but not limited to individual guidelines which can either make or break our creativity as an individual.

Multimedia can be defined as: having or offering the use of various communications or promotional media. Needless to say that if we ever wanted to freely create content and use it for personal or commercial purposes we might be in fault if we are using available information without consulting the author or whom it belongs to. In the documentary Rip: A Remix Manifesto artist Girl Talk says his Mashup form of art wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for all of the portions of artists work that he uses in his own creations. Copyright law definitely played a roll in his creative being and in the said documentary it explains the process he would have to go through in order to create without any copyright infringements, and according to that it would be impossible for him to be able to express his individuality through music, freely.

Not only applying to music there are many solutions for this blockade on all sorts of multimedia. Fair Use, the aforementioned is one of them. If every artist knew about the laws that we have to follow in order to create I believe things wouldn’t run as smooth as they do when people just bring ideas to life. But then again there comes a time where an individual like me who happens to love multimedia and all sorts of it, will go out and capture the world. I’ve had to learn that I should not upload images without watermarks. But still I have yet to register any body of work that I have created and I have seen many of my photographs used on flyers and posters throughout Baltimore City without anybody reaching out and asking me for any sort of permission. In my case there isn’t much that I am able to do, as I won’t and can’t go through the process of registering every single photograph that I shoot. Still copyright laws protect me because if I shot the photograph, I own it.

On PhotoLaw.net I quote the first paragraph in the FAQ section answering ‘What works are copyrighted?’  “Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in tangible form. This includes photographs, literary works including non-fiction and fiction, letters, music as well as accompanying lyrics, sound recordings, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, motion pictures, audiovisual works, computer software, and architectural works. Even such ordinary things such as simple letters, catalog descriptions and doodles are protected by copyright. The only essential condition that the law requires is that the work is original.” This is viable to those with little knowledge of how copyright laws work and even so, there is nothing new under the Sun.

I am more of an Artist and I rather create my own, having vast experience in music, sound engineering, photography and video work, including shooting, directing, and editing, I doubt I will ever have to resort to finding or using a piece of somebody elses work to create mine, although we can still dig deep into the topic of being ‘inspired’.

That’s not to mention plagiarism, which is the act of copying something and calling it original. Not every pairing of images that look alike means it’s a case of plagiarism. I mean- is it really impossible for two people, from the same city, maybe from different neighborhoods, who went to schools that followed the same city wide curriculum, which means they almost learned the same thing, could come up with similar creations? I would dare to say it is rare but it sure isn’t impossible. With so many bodies of work being made on a daily basis we are bound to have done something we thought was original, but a great individual before us did it first.

If stock photos or stock audio didn’t exist, would we really need to go out of our way to create everything we need from scratch? I mean is using an audio piece for a few seconds really that bad? Many can argue so but at plain sound, to me it doesn’t matter much. Most of these large corporations just want to protect what they already have even if it means hindering the new and upcoming artist that will pave the way for the future. Maybe I grasped the concept in a different way which doesn’t necessarily agree with the copyright laws already set throughout the world. I agree we as human beings need guidelines but freedom to be is just as important.

One existing solution to some of these copyright issues would be to start creating your own unique material, simply. If a specific sound is needed and someone already has created it, make it all over again from scratch. Of course it could take a lifetime if we start remaking our own everything from the beginning, so one of the alternatives to that would be licensing the body of work or a portion of it and checking if its possible to use it to create your own. Sometimes neither are possible and that’s how we are affected by copyright laws. Honestly I respect the copyright laws but I won’t necessarily abide by them when it’s time for me to create. I won’t steal and will not be labeled a thief, but we live in the information age and I believe we have to use what we’ve got. We take from the past to build for the future, and that’s actually all we’ve ever done and will do. Learn from our mistakes and make better ones.



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