Are We All Criminals?

Aena Cho     15899841_1b44e3f11d_z-2

Given the advent of the Internet and increasingly participatory media culture, and remixing and collaboration have become an integral part of our culture.  If there is one concept that has suffered more damage than just about anything else as a result of the ongoing explosion of digital postproduction works, it’s copyright: the idea that a content creator should have virtually unlimited control over his or her creation.  Under current copyright law, nearly every cover song on YouTube, every fan-made music video, every mashup album, every supercut, and every fanfic story is technically illegal (Baio, 2011). In the age of digital remix culture, indeed, intellectual property rights are messy” and often lead to complex legal disputes.

According to a digital journalist, Andy Baio, there are almost a million videos on YouTube that contain phrases like “no copyright infringement intended” or invoke the “fair use” clause in U.S. copyright legislation. In the vast majority of cases, these videos are most likely illegal under the current copyright law (Baio, 2011).  Whether fair-use principles would apply to these kinds of creations is a more difficult question to answer, since the definition of fair use is notoriously complex (Baio, 2011).  Nonetheless, no matter how strict and complex the copyright related laws are, it is now a fact that remixing is now the norm in our contemporary digital culture.  Although many of the YouTube uploaders should be regarded as criminals, under the copyright law, what they are doing is still considered as normal in our culture.

Thus, so far, it seems that there is no smart, clear-cut solution yet to solve the legal issue with the user-generated, remixed digital contents.  There would always be people and corporations who are only concerned with their economic benefits, no matter if this will eventually prevent the innovative remix culture to grow.   However, there have been many approaches to encourage the remix culture to further flourish; one of them is to form and grow a community of the remix culture in order to advocate the culture and works and help the artists to protect themselves from lawsuits or legal threats involving copyright issues.

totalrecut-150x141  The best example of that approach is Total RecutTotal Recut is a social networking, video sharing and resources website for fans and creators of video remixes, recuts and mash-ups, where users can submit, view, share, rate and comment on user generated remixed video clips (Wikipedia). It was created in June 2007 as a result of the Masters Degree project of an Irish graduate student, Owen Gallagher (Wikipedia).  According to the creator, Gallagher, it is actually intended to find a middle ground between two extremists on both sides of the protection of copyright and the freedom of expression (Jenkins, 2008).  Therefore, it encourages the users to not only be innovative but also “appropriate” remixed artworks which respect the authorship of the original source materials that their works are derived from.  For example, it provides a tutorials section, ‘Remix Academy’, to teach the users everything they need to know to produce a video remix in appropriate ways.  It provides them information and links to literature and websites about remix culture and intellectual property issues.  Such a group or community approach will definitely help the remix artists better exercise their right of freedom of expression and continue to produce new work, despite the threats by overzealous copyright owners. Most importantly, as such a website functions as a showcase for remix artists to present their works in public, it promotes the remix culture and will hopefully change the perception of many people that remixes are not creative and interfere with the economic profits of the authors of the original sources – that “the remix culture is all illegal” as Baio put it.

Work cited

1. Baio, Andy. No Copyright Intended. Dec 9, 2011. <>

2. Jenkins, Henry. “What is Remix Culture?” An Interview with Total Recut’s Owen Gallagher . Conffession of Aca Fans. June 2, 2008.