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Remix Culture & Composition: the Fashion & Music Industries


With the new capabilities of the Internet and digital media, music sharing, composing, copying, and remixing have become facilitated and enabled many users to produce their own works. Controversy has arisen around these remixes and issues over the fair use and copyright laws of previous musician’s work. Many claim that the copyright of the original artists is being violated and that the original works of artists are not being fully credited. However, many others argue that the culture of sharing and rise of intertextuality is beneficial and allows for more creativity and innovation.


The creative & innovative fashion industry:

Johannah Blakely’s TED talk discusses the benefits of creative industries where there is no copyright protection. Blakely discusses the fashion industry, where there is no copyright protection, which has subsequently produced some of the most creative and innovative pieces and trends. The lack of copyright protection forces designers to think inventively to create fresh ideas.


The fashion industry serves as a perfect model that other creative industries should follow. The lack of copyright has not negatively affected the fashion world; instead it has benefited it and contributed to the great success of the fashion industry.


Blakely defines some of the ‘virtues of copying’ that are prevalent in the fashion industry. The lack of copyright has allowed for the democratization of fashion and a broader range of design choices. Moreover, it has enabled a faster establishment of global trends, induced obsolescence, and most importantly, acceleration in creative innovation. Jennifer Jenkins, an intellectual-property expert at Duke, explains how the copying nature has its benefits. Jenkins says, “It speeds up innovation, as fashion designers have to keep churning out new products to stay ahead of the copycats.” The threat of someone mimicking a designer’s work serves as motivation for him/her to continually imagine new and vibrant ideas.

Further, the industry as not fallen apart due to other designers reusing and drawing from each other; on the contrary, it has grown and benefited from this sharing culture. As Blakely notes, fashion designers can sample from all the designs of their peers, as well as take any element from the past, by combining them together in a novel way, they make the work their own. Nearly all fashion designs are ‘remixes’ of designs of the past.


Negatives of copyright protection:

Ezra Klein discusses some negatives of copyright protection in the fashion world. Klein says, “At a certain point, copyright stops protection innovation and beings protecting profits. They scare off future inventors who want to take a 60-year-old idea and use it as the foundation to build something new and interesting.” Copyright should protect innovation, but many times it enables creators to have legalized monopolies on content, which benefits only one or a few people and discourages others from creating similar work. Klein, wary of copyright law, continues, “Copyright law is supposed to help consumers by protecting innovation, not producers by protecting profits. If we’re not having an innovation problem, we’re not having a problem that needs to be fixed through copyright.” If creativity is thriving, one should be cautious of impeding it by imposing copyright laws.


While Blakely’s and Klein’s insights and concerns are about the fashion industry, they are still very applicable to the music industry. Both are creative industries, which rely upon the imagination and inventiveness of the designers/musicians. A lack of stifling copyright law broadens the options for designers/composers to draw from each other and create fresh works. The open, remix culture of the fashion industry has brought rise to some of the most expressive and artistic pieces. Likewise, a sharing and open culture would allow composers/musicians/remixers to create unconventional, new music. As Klein notes, “the entire American fashion industry has emerged and thrived in the absence of copyright.” Like the prospering fashion industry, the music industry should follow suit and not enable restricting copyright laws that squelch creativity.


Many movements have arisen in which support an open environment and offer alternative solutions for artists facing copyright issues. Adelphi Charter, Creative Commons, Open Source Software and Open Journal all promote the sharing culture and use of material to create new works, remixes, or mashups. The Adelphi Charter notes the important of human creativity, “This creative imagination requires access to the ideas, learning and culture of others, past and present. Human rights call on us to ensure that everyone can create, access, use and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and societies to achieve their full potential.” The Adelphi Charter proposes a new way for dealing with copyright and intellectual property without being too restrictive.


Moreover, Creative Commons offers licenses which “help creators retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work, at least non-commercially.” They provide creators with an option to choose a specific Creative Common License. When choosing a license, creators have the option to choose whether they will permit adaptations of their work to be shared and whether they will permit commercial uses of their work. The amount of which they are wiling to share with the public is left completely open and depends upon each creator’s individual preference. The CC describes the benefits of the ability to choose, “[it] provides an easy way for creators to define the terms on which others may use their work. As their slogan states, Creative Commons promotes the idea of the ability for artists to, “Share your work: Choose your terms.”


While there is a rise in these corporations like Creative Commons, which support the sharing of material to create new, still many people do not support the open sharing culture. Many oppose the belief that copyrights impede on creativity. Simon Lake, CEO of Screenrights, says, “To say copyright stifles creativity is ridiculous. If you put those two things together, copyright is the end process, its what protects creativity. And to suggest that copying is creating is ridiculous.” Filmmaker and copyright lawyer, Peter Carstairs, also values copyright law. Carstairs says, “copyright doesn’t stifle creativity, it stifles your ability to use other people’s work. . . I’m a creator and I don’t have a problem in being creative. Ripping off another person’s songs isn’t about the free-flow of ideas. Its about ripping off songs without paying royalties.” Lake and Carstairs reflect the view of many artists who not only think copyright law is necessary, but think it should be enforced even further.


Despite , these concerns raised, Chris Springman, a Professor at UVA Law School, discusses the presence of the “piracy paradox.” In the fashion world, Springman notes, the “effect of copying is to generate more demand for new designs, since the old designs – the ones that have been copied – are no longer special.  The overall result is greater sales of apparel.” Likewise, in the music industry, the use of other artists’ materials may lead to similar music and leave artists feeling ‘copied’ or ‘ripped off.’ However, these discomforting feelings will most likely motivate and inspire artists to create new and fresh music to compensate for what they consider to be personal losses. As the ‘piracy paradox’ has done wonders for the fashion industry, it will most likely spur inspiration to create more genres and types of different music.

This emergence of new types of music is already present with the rise of electronic musicians and DJs. In Mashups, Remixes and Copyright Law, Australian lawyers comment on the role of these new ‘creators’ of music. They state, “They are demanding a much broader right, a right to mashup and remix material – to take on the role of producers – to cut, paste, sample of jam with content, in order to produce something which is distinctive of their own social and creative innovation.” Like in the fashion industry, the ability to draw from others’ work to recreate something new allows for new inventive forms of expression and music.


There are many websites that have embraced the open culture and sharing approach. Various websites, like Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and many more allow users to utilized CC-licensed creative works. This is a start, but more and more sites should approve and promote CC-licensed works and enable the sharing culture. Remixing is beneficial for many videos, and in particular for the music industry. To promote creativity and innovation, the music industry should follow in the footsteps of the fashion industry and embrace the remixing culture.




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