Intellectual property law seeks to provide an incentive system that promotes creative work. Such works may then benefit the public and private persons. To come up with works of value, the right to distribute and appropriate the protected work is regulated by the State. In the process, however, regulation sometimes hinders the very creativity and innovation that were to be encouraged in the first place.
This gives rise to an issue regarding the balance between public and private interest. One of the best examples that illustrate the need for balance is the concepts of remix and mashup in the music industry. As defined, a remix is “an alternative version of a song made from an original version”, while a mash-up is “the result in which a vocal from one song is laid over the music from another.” These music trends are mainly popularized by DJs and urban dance and discotheque (club) genres.
Since remixing and mashing up involves using past work (which may be protected by copyright), there are certain questions on intellectual property that arise. Is the remixer free to distribute and appropriate his work, passing it off as his own? Or is it considered derivative work which requires prior permission under copyright law? Or will it fall under the fair use exception, meaning it may be allowed for, say, academic or non-commercial purposes? These concerns normally depend on how substantial the mixed work derived its inputs from past work: if yes, it may be considered derivative and subject to copyright; if not, the remixer may be allowed. Actually, mash-ups are now “changing the face of copyright laws”, with the introduction of copyleft and Creative Commons licenses.
For me, intellectual efforts to cultivate art must be paramount, to be encouraged and not stifled. The aim of intellectual property law to regulate and protect the rights holder must be keenly balanced against the legitimate interest of the public to encourage novel works of art. Without remixes and mash-ups, a rich vein of music genre that appeals to the youth and the metropolitan sector will be stifled. This is to be contrasted to the issue of plagiarism in the academic world where intellectual dishonesty and negligent work may negate the scholarly effort and initiative of the author. In remix and mashup, the resulting work can be considered already new and creative music which at the same time harps on familiar tunes and notes derived from past work. It is an intentional move to use and enrich such work; the result is the development of the world of music. In plagiarism, the resulting work is more often the output of not meeting the discipline required for true scholarship (especially given stringent deadlines) and improper attribution (and lately, thanks to technology, from haphazard cut-and-paste). In contrast, here the matter of any malicious intent is irrelevant.
In sum, intellectual property law should put a stop to intellectual impropriety, and not sincere efforts to advance artistic creativity.
Richmund C. Sta. Lucia, Post # 6
*An interesting documentary on the topic is "Walking on Eggshells", a project for the seminar "Intellectual Property in the Digital Age" at Yale University. The webpages are as below:
Part 1/3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt0ASo_6Sdg
Part 2/3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYNrVVbfLxw
Part 3/3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kLJND1z52c