By Mia Lazzarini
Copyright laws – we have all heard about them and we all have our opinion. This is a highly contentious and touchy subject for many and there have been strong arguments presented from both sides.
My opinion? Copyright Laws are out of control. Now before I get a group of [old] people yelling at me about how copyright laws are ‘necessary’, allow me to clarify. I believe copyright and patenting laws are spiraling out of control in ways that are actually hindering many industries, particularly those associated with the creative arts and medical innovation. However, some form of copyright protection is necessary in order to encourage people to continue innovating and creating; this is especially true of the medical industry. In regards to the creative industries (namely music, film and books) copyright laws shouldn’t be necessary. Artists should create because they love it, not because of the large profits to be made. But sadly, corporations that sign artists exploit their talent by extracting as much profit as possible. This has led to industries that are largely ‘selling out’.
Thankfully, there have been artists to recognize and reject this. GirlTalk and Radiohead come to mind. GirlTalk is famous for remixing the songs of other artists to create his own [unique] form of music. Many have argued that what he is doing is stealing. I wholeheartedly disagree. What GirlTalk is doing is something that has been done for decades, perhaps centuries; taking the old and making it new. Has anyone accused Walt Disney of stealing the stories of Snow White and Cinderella? Remember, they were written by someone else long before Walt came along and made them his own, and he didn’t pay any copyright loyalties either. Yet the Walt Disney Corporation is one of the largest copyright enforcers in the world.
As for Radiohead, they have rejected the corporatization of music, which was demonstrated when they left EMI Records and became independent. They later released their next album online, allowing fans to choose how much they paid for it. There was an incident soon after whereby a young man in the US remixed a number of these songs, posting it on YouTube as a tribute to the band. He soon received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from EMI Records, accusing him of breaching copyright laws. Reportedly, Radiohead thereafter told EMI to ‘back off’, allowing the man to continue his remixes. Radiohead has since released several remix albums, and has been described as the most remix-friendly band in the world.
Today’s copyright laws are actually doing the opposite of what they initially were intended to do; encourage creative expression while protecting the intellectual rights of the creator. And in its essence, that is fair enough. But copyright laws have continued developing to the point that creation is limited by restricting what can be called ‘new’ forms of art. Nothing is ever entirely new; it is always created out of inspiration from the past. In this digital age artists have found new ways of creating and sharing, and are thus being discriminated against and even criminalized. Who is protecting their rights to freedom of speech? And who is protecting us, the consumers, from also being targeted? Nothing but a ‘fair trade’ clause which has done very little for those consumers and artists that have already been sued by profiteering corporations.
If my rant has inspired you check out RIP: A Remixer’s Manifesto you can download the movie for free and learn some more about copyright issues.