The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

RiP: A Remix Manifesto

Some of you may have come across this project in your past courses but I thought I would share it here as we enter the RipMixFeed section. RiP: A Remix Manifesto is a documentary film about copyright and remix culture. The neat thing about this project is that it is participatory (I think participation is now closed though). Brett Gaylor, the filmmaker, has encouraged people to remix his work by providing his raw film footage to anyone. Ultimately Brett intends to mashup all the remixes submitted. The film is divided into chapters based on specific copyright issues. Each section is a mashup in its own right – to be remixed by others.

Girl Talk is the first chapter of the film and is about Girl Talk, a musician who mashes up music.

See part of the original film:

Now compare it to an example that has been remixed:

(Note: I have provided the links to the videos insteading of embedding them as they go beyond the parameters of the blog post)

In the past I cleared copyright for educational materials and Girl Talk’s music would be a nightmare to clear permissions for. Some say that the Fair Use (USA) or Fair Dealing (Canada) clauses should cover a lot of Girl Talk’s work, as only snippets of music are used. However the debate often overlooks the length of a clip, to instead look at its value; meaning it could be the ‘essence’ of the entire song, thus royalities should be paid. What do you think? Does this limit artistic interpretation? What does this mean for digital literacy?


1 Jeff Miller { 11.15.09 at 10:20 am }

Hi Natalie,

RiP: A Remix Manifesto wonderfully complicates the question of citation. One of my favourite moments in the movie is when the Brett Gaylor is interviewing a copyright expert in the Library of Congress. He plays a short video clip that shows how Gregg Gillis (Girl Talk) goes about creating his mixes, taking a tiny little snippet from here, mixing another clip from there, using software to speed up, slow down, or turn entirely inside out a rift from a song so as to make it into something unrecognizable, and then mixing all of this together into something new. The expert from the Library of Congress watches this with an increasingly worried look on her face and finally says “Oh my, this really is a problem!”

The moment nicely illustrates that current digital technologies and networks for the exchange of nonrivalrous goods are shaking up conceptions of copyright. And even as we see media holders trying to put more and more restrictions on intellectual property, you have whole artistic and legal movements (like Creative Copy, Open Source Software, etc.) arising to challenge what is perceived to be a closure of the commons. I expect that the battles afoot over copyright will continue for some time to come.

One thing that is really important to think about with the Creative Commons approach is that it gives people tools to legally share their creative work using licenses that will hold up in a court of law if they are challenged. It is possible to teach our students to use creative commons licensed resources so that they can legally sample, mix and blend to their heart’s content while, hopefully, also returning their work into the commons for others to use.


2 Natalie Giesbrecht { 11.16.09 at 5:17 am }

Hi Jeff,

Thanks so much for your comments. There seems to be a real disconnect between users and owners of copyrighted works as well as government agencies – as apparent from the comments of the expert from the Library of Congress.

The current Canadian Copyright Law does not appropriately address today’s digital environments. From my experience building online courses, this poses real problems for education. The law as it stands is a barrier to using digital resources in teaching and learning. Unless otherwise stated, all digital materials to be used in educational contexts need to be cleared for permission. This requires a significant amount of resources to seek out copyright holders, send out permission forms, follow up, track permissions and keep archives of documentation. As funding for education continually shrinks, staying on top of copyright is challenging.

For those who want further information on the current landscape of copyright in Canada see Micheal Geist’s website: the Digital Copyright Canada Blog:



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