After watching Brett Gaylor’s documentary “RiP!: A Remix Manifesto,” I was even more shocked by the harshness of the United States’ Copyright laws. Having known just how strict some of these laws were, it was still surprising to have seen what was considered illegal. I never thought of music by artists like Girl Talk who create mash-ups of several popular songs to be stealing. The first time that I had heard Girl Talk I thought it was some of the most creative music I had ever heard and developed an appreciation for his art and music. When the documentary further explained just how much it should cost Girl Talk to pay for the royalties to compose these songs, my mind was blown! Over four million dollars for one album? Over 200,000 dollars for one song? Pure insanity. This is a man using inspiration that he gathered from other musicians to create something completely new and extraordinary. Why should he have to pay for making something new and original?
I think that the same goes for people’s writing. Yes, there is a fine line between completely stealing one person’s work and making no alterations to it whatsoever and calling it your own versus using bits and pieces to reference other’s works to enhance your own writing. In Kevin Kelly’s article “Becoming Screen Literate,” he makes a valid point by stating:
“In fact, the habits of the mashup are borrowed from textual literacy. You cut and paste words on a page. You quote verbatim from an expert. You paraphrase a lovely expression. You add a layer of detail found elsewhere. You borrow the structure from one work to use as your own. You move frames around as if they were phrases.”
Writing is somewhat similar to creating music or creating any type of art for that matter. The process can begin by being inspired by something, whether it is a quote from a movie or favorite author or something that made a lasting impression from an article. Someone takes that inspiration and develops ideas of something to create out of it. So far it looks as though there has been no stealing whatsoever and there isn’t! I think that writers should be encouraged to reference other writers or use quotes that hold a special meaning within their own writing. How else would some of the best works of our time be created?
Shouldn’t we all be entitled to our own creativity and make or do whatever it is we want? Where is our freedom? If people actually followed these copyrighting laws, would there even be any music or books or movies or any forms of entertainment at all? As said in “RiP!: A Remix Manifesto,” “Culture always builds on the past.” If it weren’t for certain musicians who paved the way for new genres and sounds, what would we be listening to today? It really makes one wonder.