Remix at the margins of ownership

This is about war, a war over ideas

Can you trace the sources of inspiration that shaped your way of thinking/imagining the world?

I have several. One is the documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto

Using musical creation as the main case study, the documentary explains that copyright is not about who made a song, it’s really about who owns a song. Copyright is essentially about ownership; Copyright is capitalism: property as a source of economic enrichment. This means that musical creation must come out of the blue because “you can’t base your creativity on other people’s stuff”.

As the documentary will show,  the above argument is literally impossible considering that 20th and 21st century knowledge, culture and technological creations have all been inspired on previous people’s creation.


In order to better distinct what belongs to whom, musical ownership promotes the categorization of things in an orderly fashion. The fetishism to categorize music into specific genres, authors and movements is nothing more the categorization of ownership. Hence, when experiencing music and deciding whether certain music is “good” or “bad”, you are deciding your experience through this fetichism.

Music is political. But not because of its content, but (also) because of its means of production. In the case of the 20th and 21st century music industry, copy right becomes the capitalist power structure that regulates musical transmission through the distribution of senses in a determined way. Copyright in music makes us believe that this distribution of senses has specific owners to whom we are monetary in debt.  

Can music be seen outside the realm of ownership? If we look at Ranciere[2]‘s concept of art, as the distribution of different human practices, then the answer would be yes. Ranciere allows us to see art –and therefore music- in much broader terms: We can envision ourselves, and anyone else, as generators of creativity.

Therefore copyleft emerges as the idea that sharing creativity is a cultural human right. It is about keeping the public domain free. Remix music is about creating “new” songs from many other songs that were a source of inspiration. Remix is born as a new language that “creates and recreated culture, where the creative process is more important that the product, where creativity is based on exchange”. In Lawrence Lessig’s words, Remix is the “literacy for a new generation”. One of the principles of the Remix manifesto is that “to build a free society is to limit the control of the past”, which in other words means: do not allow others to co-opt your freedom to learn from past knowledge, creation and technology because this is limits your human capability of creating art.

The democratization of technology gives way to thinking of internet as a public domain where anyone can freely share human creativity. Hence, Internet plays a key role in Remix as a public domain. 

CAUTION: One must not be naive when defining Internet as a freedom haven. Internet is also deeply political as there are particular interests that seek to privatize the domain. When the internet portal Pirate Bay was being sued for copy right infringement, one of its creators declared in a press release: “Tomorrows trial in court is not about laws, it’s about politics”.

(I can’t get into the topic of the internet because that might be a whole other blog. I just wanted an excuse to recommend you watch The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard[3] documentary).

Going beyond the realm of music, the perception that science, technology and knowledge are products to be owned has severe consequences. Even deadly. One doesn’t need to research much to find out that affordable medicines that could cure mortal illnesses around the world are not being produced or distributed because private companies have copyrighted chemical formulas.

To wrap it up, the problem with copyright ownership is not only that it restricts access, but that it denies the possibility of constructing and reconstructing the world as we wish to imagine it. For these situations, my only recommendation to counter attack the restrictions would be to cultivate some Unruliness attitude. Unruliness provokes the possibility of deconstructing social restraints that blind us. In other words, Unruly is to mind fuck[4].

Dj Cut Killer in the (highly recommended) film “La Haine”



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