Mine, Yours, Ours?

30 Aug

I was born in the mid-80s and to be honest I do not remember much of the 80s so I guess you could call me a 90s kid. I remember the days of Atari and the first Nintendo and Sega, the change from using a Walkman to Discman but mostly I remember making mix tapes. I recall sitting and waiting for hours for my favourite songs to play so I could tape them. When these tapes were full I would play them on my Walkman for hours on end. These are very happy memories of my childhood. How many of you can remember owning a Walkman and creating a mix tape?


The new generation of kids would probably laugh at the technology with the advent of iPods and other Mp3 devices. Rather than making mix tapes, kids growing up today are creating remixes of their favourite bands and posting them to YouTube. This all seems a little foreign to me albeit very cool. However, some would say this is illegal unless your name is Lawrence Lessig – a foremost authority on copyright law – who believes that we need to move from a read-only culture to a read-write culture.

In Lessig’s Ted Talks presentation: Laws that choke creativity, Lessig notes the read-write culture which allows an individual to create remixes of content already created with the hope of creating new meaning. Lessig states that this isn’t piracy because the individual isn’t distributing content en masse rather gathering information and content readily available to make something new.

When we look at popular culture ‘remixing’ isn’t a new concept, listen to any credible DJ and you will hear many remixes to a whole raft of artists. If we look at an artist like Calvin Harris  regardless of whether we listen to him or not he has become very famous for his songs and subsequent remixes of his songs. Here is a re-worked Calvin Harris song (Sweet Nothing ft. Florence Welch remixed by Diplo and Grand Theft Auto):

One example that may not be as obvious is the collaboration between Jay Z and Linkin Park. The album Collision Course was a success spurred on by MTV it shot up the Billboard charts and allowed both of its artists to see success on their individual albums.

The idea behind the project was simple and well known on MTV with the concept of MTV mashups but the choice of having a hip hop artist with a ‘nu-metal’ – a genre of music that features much of the music associated with metal but also is influenced by rap and rock music – band was something that consumers may not have thought would work.

It did.

Here is a playlist of Collision Course, enjoy!

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a licensing law with the main objective being to give creators a web-based tool that allows them to write such licenses without paying a lawyer; essentially it is using technology to protect the public domain. By creating a Creative Commons license a user can tailor the license to meet their specific needs; this is especially evident with music labels sharing their content online (The Economist, 2002).

To put it simply the difference between Copyright law and a Creative Commons licence is that with Copyright law it is very black and white with a right and wrong in terms of what you can and cannot do. However, with a Creative Commons license there are shades of grey with great autonomy given to the artist as to how they wish their material to be used and the extent to which it is used.

Where the Creative Commons License hasn’t been extended is to both Apple and Amazon who are increasingly becoming more controlling of their platforms. The proof is in the fine print in other words the terms and conditions which implicitly state that you have bought a license to the content but not the actual content. Distributing or transferring this onto a family member or friend once a person is deceased isn’t possible.

Perhaps, this is food for thought next time we purchase items from iTunes.


Amazon is fairly similar in its Kindles with the individual owning the right to the license of the book but not the actual book. On July 17, 2009 Amazon removed George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from its Kindle. The company stated that publishers had changed their minds about offering these books online. The question for consumers was who really owns this content? I mean when we purchase something we assume we own that item, in the case of the digital world this isn’t actually true, we own the licence to the item but not the actual item.

This revelation about the Kindle has definitely justified part of the reason why as an avid reader I refuse to invest in a Kindle. I simply love the feel and smell of new books and the fact I can pick up a book at any time. Knowing that if I were to buy a Kindle, Amazon can revoke my licence at any time simple does not endear me to owning that item.



Anonymous (2002) The Economist vol: 365 iss:8303

Gould, P (2004) Creative Commons ponders share options Nature 432  pp137


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