h1The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths.
We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but there is no muse. While we mythologize the creative process with images of lightning bolts and beautiful goddesses inspiring the divine act of putting pen to paper, chisel to stone or finger to tablet, the reality is a bit more prosaic. Creativity isn't delivered from above, it comes from hard work...and a good set of pre-existing materials.
This is the core argument behind Kirby Ferguson's ongoing video series Everything is a Remix, part three of which was released this week. Ferguson is a wonderful storyteller, and "Remix" brings to life how the culture we're consuming is nothing more than a steady diet of recycling.
Of course, not everyone's exactly thrilled to have their materials recycled. We found it sadly ironic that in the same week Ferguson released part three of Remix, two people who were actually creating remixes on the web had their hands slapped...one of them hard enough to bruise.
Last Friday, Jason Angello shut down his wonderful Tumblr, Peanutweeter. A simple joke that managed to last 10 weeks, Peanutweeter mashed up tweets with Peanuts comics. (One of our favorites was of Snoopy, laying on the top of his dog house under a full moon, thinking "All Brazilian waxed and nowhere to go.") Angello closed it down after receiving a takedown request from Iconix Brand Group, and posted this note to his followers: "While I maintain that Peanutweeter fell under parody and Fair Use...I do not have the means nor the desire to prove this in court."
And then on Thursday, long-time blogger Andy Baio posted the news that he had settled a dispute with Jay Maisel, the photographer of the cover image on the Miles Davis record Kind of Blue. Baio repurposed the image for a project, Maisel threatened Baio with a lawsuit, they settled for $32,000. "Despite my firm belief that I was legally in the right," Baio writes, "I settled out of court to cut my losses."
We aren't intellectual property lawyers (nor do we want to play them on TV), but as supporters of independent media and lovers of remixes, we're worried about the chilling effects of cases like these. It's unfortunate that the individuals stretching the boundaries of culture and Fair Use are precisely the people that won't have the resources to push any kind of defining case through the courts. So while everything may be a remix, the dance track only lasts as long as the lawyers let it. And we all know how well lawyers dance.