Cover video: talk by Lawrence Lessig on Remix culture.
This article is a brief reflection on creative freedom on the web, in light of new European regulations regarding copyright.
My approach is a bit pedagogic because I have tried to be concise while addressing wide-ranging and complex topics and themes.
- Remix culture
- Copyright laws
- Upload filter
- Free culture movement
- Think global, act local and “Glocal Pop”
- Back to square one
- The web as a circular economy
- Dada Remix
A remix is a piece of media which has been altered or contorted from its original state by adding, removing, and changing pieces of the item. A song, piece of artwork, books, video, poem, or photograph can all be remixes. The only characteristic of a remix is that it appropriates and changes other materials to create something new.… (source: Wikipedia)
According to Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons and Remix culture theorist, the disassembling and reassembling of text, code, images, sounds and videos typical of certain contemporary creativity has represented, for some time now, a new compositional paradigm that risks running aground in the shallows of the increasingly stringent and binding copyright laws that are in effect in Western countries.
It is no coincidence that Lessig has always been a supporter of cultural and creative practices based on the recycling/reworking of pre-existing digital content, even though it is the jurist himself who states that such content must still be framed within an adequate legislative framework.
Copyright laws vs. creative freedom
Both in Europe and in the United States, increasingly stringent regulations (though necessarily so) are being created regarding the defense of online copyright. Some of these directives, however, such as the European one approved in Brussels in March 2019 (see PDF here), are shifting the balance in favor of large web platforms on the one hand and of the powerful organizations that hold copyrights on the other. The results of this policy, to some extent unpredictable, will probably end up penalizing users, creators and small networks and this is mainly due to the number one “enemy” of online freedom: upload filters.
Upload filter vs creative freedom
An automatic upload filter is an automated computer program that scans data as it is uploaded to the web. If the program detects that content does not comply with certain predefined rules, the content in question is blocked. This technology, currently widely used, if further enhanced will in all likelihood end up significantly limiting the content that can be shared by users, content creators and small information networks (including bloggers), all to the advantage of those on the other side of the table: large web platforms, big publishing groups, organizations holding copyrights, and so on.
On the internet, over the years, more or less spontaneous activism movements have been formed, in opposition to the rules and regulations which are considered too stringent if not completely crippling (the petition against the European law on copyright has over five million adherents), inspired by the idea of the web as an open, free and shared resource. Among these, the most well known are the Free Culture Movement and #SaveYourInternet.
Free culture movement
The Free Culture Movement is an international organization which started in the early 2000s on US university campuses. The movement’s statutory aim is to promote the freedom to distribute and modify works which are borne of creativity in the form of free content. The Free Culture Movement challenges the overly restrictive laws on copyright, as well as the concepts of copyright and intellectual property, arguing that these rules hinder creativity rather than encourage it.
#SaveYourInternet is a community composed mainly of online activists whose purpose is to raise people’s awareness of internet and digital culture issues. The movement, in its European variant, is at the forefront against the new continental copyright regulations that risk substantially changing the use we make of the internet as we know it today.
Let’s return to the main topic of this article, namely Remix culture. This phenomenon, according to many sociologists, has its roots in the last two decades of the last century in conjunction with another event, which only apparently has little to do with remix culture, so-called “Glocalisation”.
Glocalism / Glocalization
Glocalism (or glocalization) is a term that became popular at the turn of the 80s and 90s due mostly to the work of sociologists such as Roland Robertson and Zygmunt Bauman. In fact, the word “glocalization”, a linguistic hybrid of globalization and localization, was coined in the early 1980s by Japanese economists to explain their country’s global marketing strategies.
The term is used to describe a service or product (including a cultural product) that is distributed globally but adapted in such a way as to satisfy the user or consumer in their local market. Glocalization, at least in its classical meaning, therefore aims to place goods produced on an international scale in various local markets.
Think global, act local.
According to Zygmunt Bauman himself, glocalization is one of the key phenomena of contemporary society. This concept, on closer inspection, ranges from the strategies of multinational companies to break into local markets, such as McDonald’s 100% Chianina beef hamburger, to inverse phenomena, that is, to indigenous cultural contexts that become international, such as the case of the Sardinian youtuber who raps an old traditional island rhyme in English and then posts it online.
It is at this point that the “remix” comes into play. Both in the case of the McDonald’s hamburger with Chianina beef and in that of the youtuber who reworks a piece of Sardinian tradition and history with a modern musical style, we find ourselves with a true pastiche that combines different things: the old and the new, the local and the international, the precious and the ordinary, the original and the conventional. This type of fluid, glocalistic and pop (ular) creativity could be defined as: Glocal Pop (the expression “pop”, whose etymology derives from the English “popular”, would act in this case as an umbrella term).
Back to square one.
The “match” that has been played in recent years regarding fundamental principles such as the defense of copyright on the internet is far from over. On closer inspection, also given the complexity of the issue (after all, everyone’s freedom on the web is at stake), we can bet that the more regulations such as those on copyright become rigid, the more creators, small publishers , bloggers, influencers and internet users will organize with grassroots initiatives aimed at countering these restrictions (unless legislators correct their aim and shift the attention from the system and its pressure groups to the needs and rights of the individual user).
This brief overview on creative freedom on the net helped me personally to take stock of some issues that prompted me to create this website and above all the videos (Dada Remix) that I present below. I hope that some of you, at least those few who have read up to this point, have found some interesting ideas to reflect on. I close with the famous Henry Ford quote: True progress happens only when advantages of a new technology become available to everybody!
Dario Quaranta (November 2019)
The web as a “circular economy”: Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed.
Similarly to biological organisms, the internet is a kind of “closed-loop” and “self-regenerating” system. The huge amount of material on the web today is the fuel for the internet of tomorrow. The scheme is similar to that of the circular economy applied to the environment, a scheme not surprisingly inspired by biological cycles and at the base of which we find keywords such as “recycling”, “sharing”, “reuse” and “reconditioning”. In short, to quote Antoine Lavoisier, the web is a place where “nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed”.
Dada Remix: video pastiches made up of pirated images, animated objects and pop languages!
Dada Remixes are video pastiches lasting one minute each that mix together images of contemporary artists taken from the web, animated objects and pop music (electro-pop, house, techno, disco, etc. ..).
These videos, which happened to be created shortly after the approval of the new legislation in terms of copyright on the web by the Brussels parliament, are “brazenly” in favor of the free and creative use of resources on the internet, in tune with the original spirit of remix culture.
According to this “philosophy”, in fact, the Internet is a sort of huge cauldron from which to recycle and transform texts, code, images, sounds, and videos to give life to something new, starting precisely from what already exists. In short, it is a sort of “circular economy” of the web where everything begins and ends within it.
The name of the project (Dada Remix) is a tribute to the historical precursors of the contemporary “cut and paste collage”, that is, to the avant-garde artistic movements of Dadaism and Neo Dadaism.