Mash-ups: Criminal or Art?

After watching the film RIP: A Remixer’s Manifesto, I have a new perspective on remixing music. Prior to watching the video, I really didn’t have much background knowledge on mash-ups or remix artists. I assumed that a lot went into making music in this way, but hadn’t really given it much thought. Now, however, I feel I have a rather informed opinion.

There are many arguments against mash-ups and remixing, stating that they are illegal uses of others’ work. As I watched the video I very quickly learned that there is a lot of legality issues around the use of music. Do these legalities exist among other forms of art? What about tattoos? I’m fairly certain that a lot of people have hearts, roses, skulls and pin up girls tattooed on their bodies. Why don’t people have issues with this kind of “copying”? It is human nature to take other people’s ideas and run with them, making them into bigger and better things. I’m sure authors don’t write books and portray characters that are completely and 100% authentic. That would be an impossible task! I know for a fact that in the world of sports people are becoming better atheletes by watching professional athletes succeed and trying to replicate their skills and tactics. Glenn Hall (born and raised in Humboldt, SK :P) was the first goaltender to use the “butterfly” move. Watch any NHL, semi-pro, junior or minor hockey game and you’ll find every goaltender out there dropping to their knees in attempt to keep the puck on the other side of the red line. So, then, are all goaltenders guilty of illegal activity? That would be a no, because nobody copyrighted the butterfly. Just as tattoo artists don’t copyright their work. In fact, athletes and tattoo artists would most likely encourage people to improve their own ideas. This is usually referred to as inspiration! Not criminal activity!

Unfortunately, the music industry is so big, and makes so many people millions of dollars that some one along the line decided they’d better protect it. This may have made some sense 40 years ago. But today, with the internet and the information that is readily available to us within a mere matter of seconds, no idea is original. With programs like Garageband anyone who knows how to use a mouse and a keyboard can figure out how to create a basic song on their computer. And guess what? That basic song will probably resemble another song that someone else in our tiny little world has created; and this song can most likely be found online.

I think that we, as a society, need to re-examine the ways that corporations are trying to control our music (and, a whole other story, our movies). Isn’t there a way that we can allow people to be creative, whether it’s with a real guitar and drumset in some kid’s parents’ garage, or with the infinite number of guitar and drum sounds that are available on our computers, without claiming them to be engaging in illegal activity?! A composer is a composer, whether they do it with a pencil and paper or with their mouse and keyboard. And they both deserve credit for their talents!!!

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