When everything becomes available

You’ve probably already seen this video. It’s doing the rounds. I just wanted to underline the key message it has to offer us. A media artefact has a cultural and creative potential that exceeds its own boundaries. That is to say – when media is open and not locked away, culture benefits.

Some of the source material for this clip (indeed, this whole album of material) is probably pretty mediocre by itself. But as has been pointed out so often, creativity builds upon the past – and sometimes you can make very interesting things out of found or discarded objects.

This video could probably be the poster child for a more open and enlightened approach to a media commons. I’m going to be on a panel about sound archives at Unlocking Audio at the British Library next week. This will no doubt come up.

10 thoughts on “When everything becomes available

  1. Agreed. Although “probably pretty mediocre by itself”, I don’t agree with! It starts with Bernard Purdie on drums. Mr Purdie. He makes real fahnk beats. There are many brilliant musicians in these video’s, most of them. That vocoder guy? Blew me away. The girl singing? Amazing!

    Copyright? Does it smell funny?

    Art has always been like this. It builds on the past. Lessig knows, we all now. Children know. Same as those brilliant video’s. They try to stop us with the bullshit term copyright, but it’s not about that. It’s about money, not art.

    There will always be claims, protection etc. But artists will always build on the past. Because there’s nothing else you can do. You can’t invent the sinewave, it’s already done. You can’t invent the pentatonic scale. The E7/#9 chord (Hendrix allows you to play it like he played it). Etc.

    12 bar blues progressions. We can copy it. We make pop music out of it.

    Bach in the public domain. We can insert his contrapuntal lines into our own music.

    The solution? Make something. Something like these video’s. It makes the people happy.

  2. Jim Offerman says:

    Awesome project!

    Wouldn’t Lessig’s latest book “Remix” (http://remix.lessig.org/) be more applicable in reference to this project? This is exactly the kind of culture that the book aims to promote.

  3. Andrew says:

    @Marco “They try to stop us with the bullshit term copyright, but it’s not about that. It’s about money, not art.”

    I wouldn’t exactly call copyright a B.S. term. For musicians (and all artists) in many countries, copyright is something that exists automatically as soon as an original work is put into original form. Some might argue that this automatically sets up an artist as a business because s/he is automatically afforded certain rights that go along with that. What Creative Commons does is allow people the ability to give up some/all of those rights voluntarily, and that is the way it should be. There are certain circumstances when, as you say, art should build upon the past and this should happen without red tape. There are other times when an artists’ career necessarily relies on copyright protection.

  4. Dubber says:

    I haven’t read Lessig’s Remix yet – and I’m reluctant to say anything about it until I have (though I suspect I’ll like it).

    One thing it’s worth underlining about Creative Commons is that it’s not about ‘giving up rights’ – but about granting certain types of permission for use of your work in advance of being asked.

    Traditional ‘all rights reserved’ copyright says “you must ask before you use this in any way at all”. Creative Commons allows you to say “under the following circumstances, you have my permission – no need to ask me”. That’s all.

  5. @Dubber: buy Remix! :-)

    I don’t believe in plagiarism, but the way we tread copyright now… the beatles couldn’t exsist right now. Or the Stones or Led Zeppelin. The all ‘stole’ from the past. Even plagiarism (copying old blues songs). Do we hate those bands? No, we take it for granted.

    Asking for permission when creating art is really weird. I am using CC for 6 years just to do the right thing, while my younger brothers and sisters are simply using anything. And I can’t blaim them.

    This series of video’s you are referring to, those are ALL copyright protected. So in fact those video’s are not legal. But we love them and that makes the difference.

  6. Paul Long says:

    There is a lot of informed and illuminating discussion on this blog around copyright which is appreciated. I’m sure I can anticipate some answers and positions in advance (should anyone respond) as well as some important distinctions and confusions, but I wonder how far individuals have considered or might comment on the cultural and well as economic issues arising around intellectual property?

    Don’t take this for my position (really) but, it is one thing to to celebrate the release of unbridled creativity by limiting the restrictive power and practices of big artists and so on authorised by copyright legislation but there are also wider, cultural powers to consider.

    Historically, these might be illustrated by the relationship of African-American artists and artists of white-European extraction- such as Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, already mentioned elsewhere.

    Not only has there been a wholesale lifting of lyrics, melodies, styles, looks etc but of a whole cultural affect in many instances.

    Now, this is of course a set of attributes far beyond the domain of copyright (I doubt whether one could copyright culture, although it can be protected nowadays it seems), but does point towards a power relationship and imbalance that indicates that the domain and exploitation of ideas lies well beyond those usually considered in discussions here (unless you point me in their direction).

    To clarify: I’m not seeking simply to conflate copyright with a cultural exploitation but wonder to what degree the two are linked and how the latter, in terms of power, might illuminate the former and enhance arguments for or agin ‘protection’?

  7. Ohblimey says:

    What it REALLY demonstrates is that music (like history) go down better better with some tight editing. It worked for Miles (and Bismarck) so don’t be ashamed. XX

  8. That’s a really cool video. It made me smile.

  9. hunter says:

    it’s ‘been removed by the user’

    bum – I hadn’t quite got there – I’ll have to try and track it down elsewhere