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Book Review. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

Do you or do you know anyone who:

  1. Make memes from images found on the internet?
  2. Sharing files with friends? (it can be anything, a scanned copy of a book, a music track)?
  3. Not buy textbooks but grab the scanned pdf online instead?
  4. Watch clips of music videos/ movies / tv shows on you tube?
  5. Download music from limewire or any other similar site?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, that makes you (and I and everybody else) criminals.

book cover

We watch music videos on YouTube, grabs MP3s from friends, make memes and posters from found images online and post them on our Facebook timeline, and share videos without a care. We do this on a daily basis, faster than we can type on our smartphone keypads.

This only proves that culture jamming is a worldwide phenomenon. Individual expression, art and culture is a norm in this digital age. Internet democratizes culture, provides community and collaborative spaces. And this is not going away.

 

Lessig, separates our culture into: RO (Read-Only) and RW (Read/Write).

RO culture: Passive consuming of culture  (recordings, broadcasts, and etc). Content are professionally produced, hierarchical, and characterized by control.
RW culture:  Active consuming of culture, consumers are also creators and participants. It’s where the professional and amateur resides.

RW culture is rampant. We participate in this, so do billions of people. These activities are creative and we participate casually, for fun, this is what we call “play” in this digital age.

Lawrence Lessig, the author of this book, is a Standford professor of law, a lawyer, a digital culture expert and the chairman of Creative Commons. He advocates for the changing the current copyright laws, made by our parents and their parents. No wonder there’s a need to change it. The copyright law can’t be an either or – policies that favors only the RO or the RW culture. That’s why SOTA failed, as it only favors the RO.

He proposes a copyright system that legalizes file sharing while providing compensation for the artists. A business model for our hybrid (gift and capitalist) economy, where consumers and supporters of art, are willing to pay creators directly for their input.

Lawrence Lessig, Shepard Fairey & Steven Johnson Talks about Remix Economy

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Part 2
The second portion of the reading takes a look at Commercial/Sharing Economies and how they have adapted to new technologies, namely the Internet. Lessig highlights 3 successful companies in who thrived off the Internet’s commercial economy; Netflix, Amazon, and Google. I pulled this particular quote as i feel it resonates with his central argument…
“Practically everything google offers helps build and extraordinary database of knowledge about what people want, and how those wants relate to the Web. Every click you make in the Google universe adds to that database. With each click, Google gets smarter.”
Slightly discerning. It’s almost like a cancer that we are fueling with no intention or even ability to stop.
The next portion pulls three key components of success from the three previous examples. They are as follows…
1. Long Tails:
The Long Tail principle says that as the cost of inventory falls, the efficient range of inventory rises. And as transaction costs generally fall to zero, the efficient inventory rises to infinity. With Amazon, it has the ability to offer more inventory to it’s customers than a physical store because it can store inventory efficiently at different locations around the country.
2. Little Brother:
With a vast amount of possibilities made available to us, customers want an efficient way to sift through the data and be matched to what they want. Lessig explains that collecting data about consumers is not a new concept, what made the Amazons/Netflixes/Googles so successful was “peer-to-peer” technology. By getting people to add specific personal information into the database, the database becomes more valuable to everyone.
3. LEGO-ized Innovation:
All three of the examples thrived off allowing others to innovate upon their platform. It turns into a “block” that others can add to their own Web site or their own business.
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Part 3
Lessig discusses solutions to the copyright problems, however he doesn’t quite get into details about  it, he just raises the questions.
He list five ways in which the laws can be improved.
  1. Deregulating Amateur Creativity
    • He suggests we exempt the non-commercial uses. This basically means that people who are not actually benefiting financially shouldn’t be burdened by copyright laws
    • “Remix” here means transformative work. “Copies” mean efforts not to change the original work but simply to make it more accessible.”
    • “By contrast, copies of professional work should continue to be regulated in the traditional manner. The right to distribute these could, in this model, remain within the exclusive control of the copyright holder”  So copies should still fall under the restriction of the original copyright holder, but remixes should not.
  2. Clear Title
    • Right now it’s very hard to see who owns the rights to what easily.
    • America used to have opt-in copyright, but in 1976, copyright was changed to have it be opt-out.
    • Lessig believes that a copyright holder should register there work for extended copyright and shortening the original time between that, after which the work goes into the public domain.
  3. Simplify
      • “The third change follows directly from the second. Congress must work to make the law simpler.”
      • Right now If someone wanted to make a youtube video with a popular song, he would have to ask permission and seek right to it.
      • He believes that a kid should be able to understand the copyright laws in order to follow it.
      • He states that we have the technology to encourage creativity, however we can’t easily do it legally
      • Fair use only protects against criticism. However its objective
  4. Decriminalizing the Copy
    • Decriminalizing copying files
    • With the current law we have to hire lawyers to figure out what’s within copyright laws
  5. Decriminalizing File Sharing
    • Basically for the same reason as Decriminalizing copy.

 

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Questions for readers:

  1. In this digital age, how do we distinguish between piracy and art? This.  This. or This.
  2. Do you think the new copyright laws he’s proposing will work?
  3. Is the new copyright system he’s proposing too naive? It depends too much on goodwill (gift economy) and not on our current capitalist system?

Resource for Digital Content Remix: Future Non Stop

 




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