Friday, February 17, 2012

Everything is a Remix

Everything is a Remix is a documentary by filmmaker Kirby Ferguson.

In part one of the series he examines bands like Led Zeppelin and hip-hop artists of the 80's who made millions of dollars by sampling or remixing other peoples creative works.

In part two he delves deep into the film industry and shows that most films today are derivative works of the past, copied sometimes scene by scene. He dedicates most of the second part to examining the film Star Wars, which gets most of its material from the old Flash Gordon serials of the 1930's and Akira Kurosawa films. He also talks at some length about modern Hollywood films sticking to the idea of genres.

In part three he talks about how many of our modern inventions are copies of previous works. He spends a lot of time talking about Apple's extensive copying of the works of a company called Xerox to create it's own personal computer and modern graphical user interface.

It's in the conclusion to this four part series that we are introduced to Copyright and Patent laws. He attempts to explain the idea that copying is a part of nature. The evolution of genes is a product of a three part process of Copying, Transformation and Combination. He goes on to explain that culture evolves in a similar fashion, only with memes using ideas, behaviors and skills, a kind of social evolution. He continues by explaining that we evolved by copying the ideas of old to develop new ideas, but a new form of meme emerged called Intellectual Property. Intellectual Property is the perceived ownership of an idea, and it came about because of an unusual psychological idiosyncrasy called loss aversion. Loss aversion basically refers to people's tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains, which translates to the idea that copying is okay if you are the one copying, but distressing if its your work being copied. Disney is mentioned as a company who built their reputation and fortune on using the works of others through the public domain, however when it came time for Disney to give up Mickey Mouse to the public domain, they lobbied congress for an extension on copyright. Steve Jobs doesn't get by without a mention as someone who basically built an empire on the work of Xerox but criticized Google for copying the idea of the iphone and iOS to make its android phones.

He continues with examples from the music industry where artists extensively copy the music of other artists explicitly. Artists like George Harrison and Ray Charles are shown to have borrowed the melody of songs without permission to use in their own music.

He continues on with an explanation of patent laws, ip litigation, and secret international treaties.

He ends with some choice words that sum up everything quite well:

We live in an age with daunting problems. We need the best ideas possible, we need them now, we need them to spread fast. The common good is a meme that was overwhelmed by intellectual property. It needs to spread again. If the meme prospers, our laws, our norms, our society, they all transform.

That’s social evolution and it’s not up to governments or corporations or lawyers… it’s up to us.

The documentary is only about 34 minutes long if you watch all four parts. Part four peeked my particular interest and I watched it first as it deals with the subject of copyright and intellectual property, subjects I am strongly against. After watching part four I went back and watched them all together. I even took the time to plug the four of them into Adobe Premiere , and create a nice single documentary, which I promptly torrented of course.

The filmmaker's website has a lot of good info as well as some links to donate for upcoming projects. Although I started to watch the parts from his site, I found it quite difficult and was unable to do so. I couldn't tell if it was the site or a bad combination of Firefox and a beta version of the adobe flash player, which crashes quite frequently.

Everything is a Remix Part 1

Everything is a Remix Part 2
 Everything is a Remix Part 3
Everything is a Remix Part 4
Magnet Link to download torrent
Downloading this way may be much slower until the file has been properly seeded. However, right now it may be the only way to get the entire documentary as a single file.  The movie was ripped into a 275MB XVID avi with MP3 audio.
This is a fantastic documentary and I highly recommend everyone check it out. And if you have a chance to donate to the filmmaker I highly suggest it to keep him making high quality work like Everything is a Remix.

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