Sometimes People See Sense…

…The Twitter accounts of fans roleplaying Mad Men characters have been restored, after being briefly taken down for supposed copyright infringment. To quote this excellent summary of this issue from The Guardian, “the accounts returned after the show’s marketing department had stepped in to persuade AMC that, whatever the legal standing, it was insane to stop this outpouring of (completely free, you fools) fan-promotion.”

…We’ve also heard that many vidders have had positive experiences using YouTube’s “dispute” process; that is, so far when vidders have pointed to the creative and transformational nature of their vids, the vids have been restored. We are fans of YouTube’s dispute process and we hope that they expand it, thus protecting transformative works from clumsy algorithms that can’t detect fair uses.

Not everyone’s been so lucky, though. The EFF has been tracking the January takedowns, and they’re calling for YouTube to “not remove videos unless there is a match between the video and audio tracks of a submitted fingerprint.” This would stop the wrongful takedowns of transformative works like vidding, and would also stop a number of other ridiculous deletions. The EFF argues that “adding a soundtrack to your home skateboarding movie is a fair use,” and they’re looking to help people whose work was taken down unfairly.

Colbert Two: Electric Boogaloo

It’s official: Stephen Colbert says, “Remixing is OK!” On Wednesday, January 21, 2009, Colbert renewed his remix challenge to his fans by noting that a number of “DJ Jazzy Jerks” were already remixing his interview with Laurence Lessig against his explicit wishes! One of these briefly shown was Eclectic Method’s remix:

Eclectic Method – The Colbert Report – Remix feat Lawrence Lessig

Colbert was so “enraged”, he produced his own remix, “as a warning to others.”

Colbert’s Own Remix – Remixing Is Okay!

(Now, on the home page of the Colbert Nation website, there’s a banner link to Colbert Remix Page. Accepted forms of upload include avi, dv, mov/qt, mpeg, mp4, 3gp, asf/wmv, flv.)

However, just to be sure we get the point, Stephen insisted:

I do not! Not! Want you to take my interview with Lawrence Lessig and remix it with a pumping k-hole groove! Nor do I want you to remix excerpts from my book, particulary Chapter 7, entitled, “Homosexuals,” which is full of soundbytes that would set fire to any disco dance floor. Like this one: “I am a gay American.” Just to make sure my point gets across, let me say it more rhythmically: “I. Don’t. Want you to mix my words. In a song. To play. In a club. That will make you grind. Okay? Make. You. Grind.”

Shockingly, the geniuses at Eclectic Method have already remixed this warning! What is this world coming to?

Eclectic Method – RE REMIX

Remixing Colbert

We’d like to join the EFF, Cory Doctorow, and others in applauding Lawrence Lessig’s appearance on the Stephen Colbert show on Thursday Jan 8, 2009 (watch the video at colbertnation.com). Lessig was there to promote his new book, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, and Colbert, in his sly way, noted that the remix economy was good for copyright holders, noting that, “When we have our green screen challenges, they [fans] do all the work and I get all the ad revenue.” Colbert also issued a kind of reverse-language remix challenge to his fans:

Colbert: Nobody should take my work and do anything with it that is not approved! Ever ever never ever take anything of mine and remix it! For instance, I will be very angry and possibly litigious if anyone out there takes this interview right here and remixes it with some great dance beat. And it starts showing up in clubs across America.

Actually, there are already some great Colbert (and Colbert/Stewart) vids out there.

One of my favorite Colbert vidders is Di, who’s made vids such as “Bad Day” (which she describes as “a tribute to my hero, the wonderful Stephen Colbert, during his Daily Show years”) as well as the joyful Jon/Stephen vid “All The Small Things.”


Bad Day (Stephen) – Di


All The Small Things (Jon/Stephen) – Di

I would have linked to these vids on YouTube, except, whoops:

This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.

Which brings us to the next point: just as vids and remixes become more widely known and this art form becomes accessible to more participants, YouTube has begun aggressively taking them down.

I don’t think the situation is quite as dire as Mike Riggs notes in Reason Magazine’s blog post, New YouTube Policy Heralds an end to Vidding, Mash-ups, Dancing Babies–for one thing, the courts seem to be pro-Dancing Babies, and we just elected a president on a wave of political remix video. (Obama, at least, seems to understand the importance of remixing; his websites, change.gov and now (\o/) whitehouse.gov, were released under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licenses.) But Stephanie Lenz and the EFF fought for the rights of Dancing Babies everywhere, and vidders are going to have to fight too.

As Colbert has recognized, vidding is good for copyright holders: it makes people want to watch your show. It also makes people want to buy your song, because of the new, positive associations with it. (Fans bought Regina Spektor in droves after Lim transformed “Us” into a fannish anthem; see Jonathan Gray’s almost offhand note of how Lim sold Regina’s work to him.)

Vidding is a form of speech: it’s an essay in visual form. There’s a lot of talk in education circles about “the language of new media” and of the importance of learning how to communicate through the media: vidding is a fun, grassroots form of media education. Some vids are of course better than others, but all vids are useful creative exercises: at the very least, vids turn our one-way, read-only culture into a read-write culture. Or as Clay Shirky put it: “A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken.” Increasingly, that screen comes standard with some form of video editing software, too.