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Remix Culture on the Internet Case Study

The remix culture, as we know it, is a unique notion that is placed at the particular period in history. However, a remixed work has much more significance than only the ability to balance on the verge of innovative and derivative work. A remix signalizes a crucial shift in a way people think about their culture. Moreover, a remix points away from the historical framework that focuses on a particular area (music, video, or imagery) as a commodity, and points at the new creation that relates to the area.


According to O’Brien and Fitzgerald, “The exclusive rights of the copyright owner over acts such as reproduction/copying, communication, adaptation, and performance – unless licensed openly – by their very nature reduce the ability to negotiate copyright material without permission” (18). Thus, it is inevitable for a remix to face legal issues when a part of the original piece is copied, adapted, or reproduced without the agreement and permission of the copyright owner through a Creative Commons license. In general, when resolving the issue of copied material, the court considers what is a substantial part of copied material on the basis of quality rather than quantity. Nevertheless, when it comes to this issue within the framework of a remix, there is uncertainty in the Copyright Act that bears very little judicial authority. Thus, it is likely that the remixes are considered on the case-to-case basis to determine whether the violation of copyright has occurred (O’Brien and Fitzgerald 19).

However, when it comes to the digital world, the notion of creating content is highly controversial. Thus, arises the question as expressed by Lawrence Lessig in How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law: “What should the freedom to write, the freedom to quote, the freedom to remix be?” (“Remix. How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law” 157). According to Lessig, a remix has no connections to the technique, because the techniques used for remixes have been available to musicians and filmmakers for decades. The most important issue with remixes is the fact that the necessary techniques are available for anyone who has access to a computer. Anyone with this access can take sounds, images, or video material from another culture or generation and remix it in a way that is closer to the target generation or culture. This can be called writing of the twenty-first century (Lessig “Remix. How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law” 160). The issue with remixes is that the law agrees with quoting from a text while the quoting from a visual or sound medium requires a permission first.

Remix Culture on the Internet

It is important to note that nowadays people live in a remix culture, especially when it comes to the Internet. This is the culture where any kid has Photoshop and can download a photo of Lady Gaga, manipulate it and sent it to their friends on Facebook. And this is exactly what they usually do, they remix. Furthermore, it is impossible not to notice the increasing rates at which music remixes are created. At least one song from a Top-10 chart on the radio has a remix in it. Or the same kids that remix photos from the Internet can download a recent hit and do a remix of it because the current software allows them to. This is what can be called “free culture.” Ideas are manipulated and then passed along where they are manipulated again (Lessig Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy 14).

On the other hand, the world of the Internet technology has received strong critiques on how it impacts creativity, critical thinking, and reduces empathy. According to Nicolas Carr, Google is “quite literally, in the business of distraction” (qtd. in McChesney 70). Thus, the criticism of the Internet that went out of control is tightly linked to the over-commercialism.

SilviaO Case

SilviaO is a Colombian singer and songwriter that performed at the launch of Creative Commons Colombia in Bogota. Creative Commons is a non-profit provider of free copyright licenses, which encourages many artists to create new projects with the use of the licensed material. SilviaO sang a beautiful song in Spanish “Nada Nada” that was translated into English as “Nothing Nothing” and donated to the Creative Commons website for the free use by everyone who liked to remix or reuse the track. After a couple of days after uploading the track, another artist has remixed SilviaO’s song into an unrecognizable but beautiful melody with the Spanish words transformed into gibberish. Furthermore, the song was retitled as “Treatment for Mutilation” which caused some distress to the Creative Commons management that thought that the remix will upset SilviaO (Lessig Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy 20).

However, SilviaO did not view her remixed track as an attack on her creativity, on the other hand, the remix has shown her a completely different side of her song. Despite the fact that the Spanish words had no longer hand meaning, the music had a jazzy motif that bore much more energy. Consequently, SilviaO decided to write new words and lay them on the remixed track thus creating a remix of a remix. In this case, the act of creating a new song has completely changed and had no limits linked to copyright thanks to the Creative Commons platform. Thus, the opportunity for an artist to create new songs based on the works of another author without any license permission gives freedom to creativity.

Fair Use Project Recommendations

According to the short video shot by the Fair Use Project, nowadays there is a blossoming of amateur cultures of video and audio remixes that in the majority of cases circulate around the Internet. When people are asked when they can use copyrighted material for free, one could come up with a definite answer. Peter Jaszi from the American University Law School states that copyright rights are all about keeping balance between the original and derived material. They should give the owners of a copyright reasonable protection while allowing creators make new material using old culture. Thus, fair use provides the ability as well as controls private censorship by copyright.

It is imperative for people to have a sense of what the rules and guidelines are for how they can reuse already existing material. This is where something like the Code of Best Practices comes in. It provides guidelines for amateur and everyday creators on how to use copyrighted material in their work. However, the Code of Best Practices is not a ‘blank-check’. The creator of a remix or any other similar work needs to be sure that the new material is transformative, and the amount of copyrighted material used is proportional to the initial purpose. Furthermore, it is always important to try to give credit to original author. The short video shot by the Fair Use Project also gives visual and audio examples of how can one use copyrighted material with the Code of Best Practices that in reality has no straightforward limitations (Remix Culture: Fair Use is Your Friend). To conclude the analysis of the Fair Use Project video, it is important to underline two facts that go side by side each other: remix culture is everywhere, especially on the Internet, and there should not be any strict rules on the use of copyrighted material as long as the fair use is considered.

YouTube as a Top Medium for the Internet Remixes

Before discussing the YouTube remix culture, it is important to mention the concept of convergence that directly affects the discussion. According to Fagerjord, “Convergence is the process of leveling the differences between the different media” (190). Thus, a remix can be considered a phenomenon that appeared after convergence. The notion of a remix fits various descriptions for a variety of phenomena that exist in the realm of YouTube.

Since YouTube is a medium for uploading original and derivative video or audio material, it is understandable that many can upload remixes on this platform for everyone to see. For instance, one can take some clips from a movie and combine them into a short video with some kind of music and then upload it to YouTube. However, a short video is created by an author specifically to fit the needs of the target audience. Thus, YouTube is an ideal medium for creators to express opinions and implement ideas that are then presented to the public (Fagerjord 191).

Moreover, YouTube can be called a remix in itself although making it an example of convergence is a far fetch. The website is a video gallery filled with examples from the Internet remix culture that also has a system of comments where people can share their opinions on the remixed works or simply interact with each other. The reason for YouTube success is the fact that uploading process is completely free and quite simple. Specifically, this simplicity contributes to the fact that there is more than a hundred million movie clips are viewed daily.

Scholarly Sources Annotation

How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law

The article that bears the most relevance to the topic of remix culture on the Internet is How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law by Lawrence Lessig. Lessig argues that copyright is an answer to specific economic questions that cannot be avoided. The author proposes a paradox that without the notion of copyright there would be less speech because the limitations of the freedom to copy someone’s material creates an opportunity for the emergence of new and original speech. However, the notion of copyright should be adapted to the world of technology where boundaries are blurred. Because the ability to create remixes on the Internet is widespread, the frameworks that surround the notion of the copyright should be adjusted. Nowadays anyone can take images or videos and create new content that can speak to a different culture much louder than the original work. Thus, the permission to use someone’s original work on the Internet should not be imperative (Lessig “Remix. How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law” 160).

How Can the Political Economy of Communication Help Us Understand the Internet?

How Can the Political Economy of Communication Help Us Understand the Internet? is a chapter from Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy in which Robert McChesney offers a close look on how the Internet affects the modern media sphere. The chapter discusses a political economy area called the political economy of communication (PEC) that offers insights into the key problems of digital revolution. McChesney puts forward a claim that the country’s government can affect policies concerning the system of media; however, it is only done while critical junctures are in place (McChesney 65).

Moreover, the article states that the issue of copyright remains unresolved because in the political economy of communication large media companies still dominate. The article also described the evolution of professional journalism along with the problems the industry faces along the way. McChesney closed the chapter by putting an emphasis on the importance of establishing policies on copyright and media as well as the importance of public participation when it comes to such issues (McChesney 94).

Estranged Free Labor

Estranged Free Labor by Marc Andrejevic offers a shift in the conversation about the dangers of corporate usage of personal data from the suggestions that such action infringes personal privacy and towards the principle of Marxist exploitation. By offering such a shift, Andrejevic is clear about the differentiation of mental and physical exploitation alongside with suggesting the inclusion of voluntary use of data into the forms of exploitation. Such data is considered a property of companies that sell and buy data behind the platforms like Facebook or Twitter (Andrejevic 153). For Andrejevic, the shift gives a basis for new conversations about the process of data monitoring that goes beyond the limits of personal choice and the critique the use of information for personal benefit or profit.

After Convergence: YouTube and Remix Culture

The article After Convergence: YouTube and Remix Culture by Anders Fagerjord gives definition to the term convergence as well as its effects on the modern media culture. The article explores the development of media on the basis of the digitization process. It underlines the importance of the Internet platform YouTube that allows any user to mix and create new content and then easily upload it. Furthermore, the article also puts an emphasis on the fact that due to the widespread of technology and free access to editing software, the reform in establishing new copyright policies is essential (Fagerjord 195).

Remix: the Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization

Lastly, the article by Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear Remix: the Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization approaches the concept of the remix from the artistic and craftsmanship perspectives. According to Knobel & Lankshear, such an approach serves as an educational tool for expressing culture and literacy (32). Authors argue that the involvement of the concept of remix into the education of younger generations will offer a variety of benefits both for teachers and their students. However, such integration will be only possible with the recognition of remix theory as a new and alternative method of creating content.

Works Cited

Andrejevic, Mark. “Estranged Free Labor.” Digital Labor: the Internet as Playground and Factory. Ed. Trebor Scholz. New York, NY: Routeledge, 2013. 149-164. Print.

Fagerjord, Anders. 2010. Web.

Knobel, Michele, and Colin Lankshear. “Remix: the Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 52.1 (2008): 22-33. Print.

Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic, 2008. Print.

—. “Remix. How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law.” The Social Media Reader. Ed. Michael Mandiberg. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2012. 155-169. Print.

McChesney, Robert. Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. New York, NY: The New Press. 2013. Print.

O’Brien, Damien, and Brian Fitzgerald. “Mashups, Remixes and Copyright Law.” Law Bulletin 9.2. (2006): 17-19. Print.

. Ex. Prod. Fair Use Project. 2009. Web.

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