Transcript – Remix in Higher Education (5.2)

“Why Remix?” Page

“Everything is a Remix: Part 1”

Transcript by Kirby Ferguson. Times added by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.


Remix. To combine or edit existing materials to produce something new


The term remix originally applied to music.


It rose to prominence late last century during the heyday of hip-hop, the first musical form to incorporate sampling from existing recordings.


Early example: the Sugarhill Gang samples the bass riff from Chic’s “Good Times” in the 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight”.


[clip from “Rapper’s Delight,” The Sugarhill Gang] Now what you hear is not a test / I’m rapping to the beat / And me, the groove and my friends / Are gonna try to move your feet


[clip from “Good Times,” Chic] These are the good times / Leave your cares behind


Since then that same bassline has been sampled dozens of times.


[clip from “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash,” Grandmaster Flash] [bassline plays]


[clip from “Everything’s Gonna be Alright,” Father MC] …kinda crowded, what a scene / Pullin up with Jodeci blastin out the fifteen / So I park my ride, girls see my…


[clip from “It’s All Good,” Will Smith] I got the good life, no strife, real nice / And I’m a papa my son Trey, haha


[clip from “2345Meia78,” Gabriel O Pensador] É o seu velho caderninho de telephone / Com o nome e o número de um monte de mulhé / E ele vai ligar…


[clip from “Around the World,” Daft Punk] Around the world, around the world / Around the world / around the world


Skip ahead to the present and anybody can remix anything — music, video, photos, whatever — and distribute it globally pretty much instantly.


You don’t need expensive tools, you don’t need a distributor, you don’t even need skills. Remixing is a folk art — anybody can do it.


Yet these techniques — collecting material, combining it, transforming it — are the same ones used at any level of creation.


You could even say that everything is a remix.


To explain, let’s start in England in 1968.


[clip from “The Song Remains the Same,” Led Zeppelin] [instrumental]


Jimmy Page recruits John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and John Bonham to form Led Zeppelin.


They play extremely loud blues music that soon will be known as—


Wait, let’s start in Paris in 1961.


William Burroughs coins the term “heavy metal” in the novel “The Soft Machine,” a book composed using the cut-up technique, taking existing writing and literally chopping it up and rearranging it.


So in 1961 William Burroughs not only invents the term “heavy metal,” the brand of music Zeppelin and a few other groups would pioneer, he also produces an early remix.


Back to Zeppelin.


By the mid-1970s Led Zeppelin are the biggest touring rock band in America, yet many critics and peers label them as… rip-offs. The case goes like this.


The opening and closing sections of “Bring it on Home” are lifted from a tune by Willie Dixon entitled — not coincidentally — “Bring it on Home.”


[clip from “Bring it on Home,” Led Zeppelin] Got my ticket, got that load


[clip from “Bring it on Home,” Dixon; performed by Sonny Boy Williamson] I done bought my ticket, I got my load


“The Lemon Song” lifts numerous lyrics from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”


[clip from “The Lemon Song,” Led Zeppelin] I should’ve quit you / A long time ago


[clip from “Killing Floor,” Burnett] I should’ve quit you / A long time ago


“Black Mountain Side” lifts its melody from “Blackwaterside,” a traditional arranged by Bert Jansch.


[clip from “Black Mountain Side,” Led Zepplin] [instrumental]


[clip from “Blackwaterside” (Traditional, Arranged Jansch)] [instrumental]


“Dazed and Confused” features different lyrics but is clearly an uncredited cover of the same-titled song by Jake Holmes. Oddly enough, Holmes files suit over forty years later in 2010.


[clip from “Dazed and Confused,” Led Zeppelin] Been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true


[clip from “Dazed and Confused,” Holmes] I’m dazed and confused, hanging on by a thread


And the big one, “Stairway to Heaven” pulls its opening from Spirit’s “Taurus.” Zeppelin toured with Spirit in 1968, three years before “Stairway” was released.


[clip from “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin] [instrumental]


[clip from “Taurus,” California] [instrumental]


Zeppelin clearly copied a lot of other people’s material, but that alone isn’t unusual. Only two things distinguished Zeppelin from their peers.


Firstly, when Zeppelin used someone else’s material, they didn’t attribute songwriting to the original artist. Most British blues groups were recording lots of covers, but unlike Zeppelin, they didn’t claim to have written them.


Secondly, Led Zeppelin didn’t modify their versions enough to claim they were original. Many bands knock off acts that came before them, but they tend to emulate the general sound rather than specific lyrics or melodies. Zeppelin copied without making fundamental changes.


So, these two things


Covers: performances of other people’s material


And knock-offs: copies that stay within legal boundaries


These are long-standing examples of legal remixing. This stuff accounts for almost everything the entertainment industry produces, and that’s where we’re headed in part two.


[clip from “The Rain Song,” Led Zeppelin] Talk talk / Hey! / I’ve felt the coldness of my winter / I never thought it would ever go / I cursed the gloom that set upon us, upon us, upon us / But I know that I love you so, oh


Wait, one last thing. In the wake of their enormous success, Led Zeppelin went from the copier to the copied.


First in the 70s with groups like Aerosmith, Heart and Boston, then during the eighties heavy metal craze, and on into the era of sampling.


Here’s the beats from “When the Levee Breaks” getting sampled and remixed.


[clip from “When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin] [instrumental]


[clip from “Rhymin’ and Stealin’,” Beastie Boys] [instrumental]


[clip from “Return to Innocence,” Enigma] [instrumental]


[clip from “Lyrical Gangbang,” Dr. Dre] [instrumental]


[clip from “Kim,” Eminem] So long, bitch you did me so wrong / I don’t wanna go on


In Zeppelin’s defense, they never sued anybody.


Hi, I’m Kirby, I made the video you just watched, “Everything is a Remix.” If you enjoyed the video please head over to and donate a little money.


Anything you can muster would be greatly appreciated and will help me dedicate time to completing the remaining three episodes – it’s going to be a four part series.


The site has plenty of complementary information that I think you might find interesting as well. Uh, and you can also find links to, like, songs and videos and stuff from the video. If you happen to like them you can go there and purchase them.


It’s also a good way to keep up with the latest with what’s going on with the series. I think that’s it. Okay, thank you for watching and I’ll see you next time.


I said, a hip hop the hippie the hippie / To the hip hip hop, and you don’t stop / The rock it to the bang, bang boogie / Say up jumped the boogie / To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat

“Everything is a Remix: Part 2”

Transcript by Kirby Ferguson. Times and ending interview transcript added by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.


Perhaps it’s because movies are so massively expensive to make.


Perhaps it’s because graphic novels, TV shows, video games, books and the like are such rich sources of material.


Or perhaps it’s because audiences prefer the familiar.


Whatever the reason, most box office hits rely heavily on existing material.


Of the ten highest grossing films per year from the last ten years, 74 out of 100 are either sequels or remakes of earlier films or adaptations of comic books, video games, books, and so on.


Transforming the old into the new… is Hollywood’s greatest talent. [instrumental grows in volume]


At this point we’ve got three sequels to a film adapted from a theme park attraction.


We’ve got a movie musical based on a musical which was based on a movie.


We’ve got two sequels to a film that was adapted from an animated TV show based on a line of toys.


We’ve got a movie based on two books, one of which was based on a blog which was inspired by the other book that was adapted into the film. Do you follow?


We’ve got 11 Star Trek films, 12 Friday the 13ths, and 23 James Bonds.


We’ve got stories that have been told, retold, transformed, referenced, and subverted since the dawn of cinema.


We’ve seen vampires morph from hideous monsters to caped bedroom invaders to campy jokes to sexy hunks to sexier hunks.


Of the few box office hits that aren’t sequels, remakes, or adaptations, the word “original” wouldn’t spring to mind to describe ’em.


These are genre movies, and they stick to pretty standard templates.


Genres then break-up into sub-genres with their own even more specific conventions.


So within the category of horror films we have sub-genres like slasher, zombie, creature feature, and of course, torture porn.


All have standard elements that are appropriated, transformed and subverted.


Let’s use the biggest film of the decade as an example.


Now it’s not a sequel, remix or adaptation, but it is a genre film—sci-fi—and most tellingly, it’s a member of a tiny sub-genre where sympathetic white people feel bad about all the murder, pillaging, and annihilation being done on their behalf.


I call this sub-genre “Sorry about Colonialism!” I’m talking about movies like Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, The Last of the Mohicans, Dune, Lawrence of Arabia, A Man Called Horse, and even Fern Gully and Pocahontas.


Films are built on other films, as well as on books, TV shows, actual events, plays, whatever.


This applies to everything from the lowliest genre film, right on up to revered indie art fare.


And it even applies to massively influential blockbusters, the kinds of films that reshape pop culture.


Which brings us to…


Even now, Star Wars endures as a work of impressive imagination, but many of its individual components are as recognizable as the samples in a remix.


The foundation for Stars Wars comes from Joseph Campbell. He popularized the structures of myth in his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Star Wars follows the outline of the monomyth, which consists of stages like…


The Call to Adventure


Supernatural Aid


The Belly of the Whale


The Road of Trials


The Meeting with the Goddess, and a bunch more.


Also huge influences were the Flash Gordon serials from the thirties and Japanese director Akira Kurasowa.


Star Wars plays much like an updated version of Flash Gordon, right down to the soft wipes and the opening titles design.


From Kurasowa we get masters of spiritual martial arts, a low-ranking bickering duo, more soft wipes, a beneath-the-floorboards hideaway, and a boastful baddy getting his arm chopped off.


You just watch yourself. We’re wanted men…


War films and westerns were also huge sources for Star Wars.


The scene where Luke discovers his slaughtered family resembles this scene from The Searchers.


And the scene where Han Solo shoots Greedo resembles this scene from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.


The climactic air missions in The Dambusters, 633 Squadron and The Bridges at Toko-Ri bore a huge influence on the run on the Death Star. And in many cases, existing shots were even used as templates for Star Wars’ special effects


Ha ha! Got him!


I got him!


There’s also many other elements clearly derived from various films.


We have tin man like the tin woman in Metropolis, a couple shots inspired by 2001, a grab-the-girl-and-swing scene like this one in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, a holographic projection kinda like the one in Forbidden Planet, a rally resembling this one in Triumph of the Will, and cute little robots much like those in Silent Running.


George Lucas collected materials, he combined them, he transformed them.


Without films that preceded it, there could be no Star Wars.


Creation requires influence.


Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.


As Isaac Newton once said, we stand on the shoulders of giants—which is what he was doing when he adapted that saying from Bernard de Chartres.


In Part Three we’ll further explore this idea further and chart the blurry boundary between the original and the unoriginal.


[instrumental music]


George Lucas was the most movie saturated filmmaker of his era, but that baton has since been passed to…


Quentin Tarantino’s remix master thesis is Kill Bill, which is probably the closest thing Hollywood has to a mash-up.


Packed with elements pulled from countless films, Kill Bill raises filmic sampling to new heights of sophistication.


The killer nurse scene in particular is almost entirely a recombination of elements from existing films.


The basic action is the same as this scene from Black Sunday, where a woman disguised as a nurse attempts to murder a patient with a syringe of red fluid.


Darryl Hannah’s eye patch is a nod to the lead character in They Call Her One Eye, and the tune she’s whistling is taken from the 1968 thriller, Twisted Nerve.


Capping it off, the split screen effect is modeled on techniques used by Brian De Palma in an assortment of films, including Carrie.


For an extended look at Kill Bill’s references, check this out.




Hi there. I am Kirby. I am the creator of “Everything is a Remix,” and I hope you enjoyed this latest installment.


Now if you did, if you enjoyed it a lot and you’d like to help me keep slogging away at it, financial contributions are very much welcome.


And you can do that at the address that’s over there, someplace, or go to my site and click donate.


This series really is a massive amount of work so all contributions really do help.


Also go to if you’d like to learn more about the production of this video, the samples, the references, all the stuff that went into the making of it.


Thank you for watching. Uh, my sincere thanks for your support, your feedback, your praise, your criticism, the lot.


Thank you. I hope you like the video. I hope you like the next one, and I’ll see you next time.

“Everything is a Remix: Part 3”

Transcript by Kirby Ferguson. Times and concluding interview transcript added by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.


The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths. Myths that creativity comes via inspiration. That original creations break the mold, that they’re the products of geniuses, and appear as quickly as electricity can heat a filament.


But creativity isn’t magic: it happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials.


And the soil from which we grow our creations is something we scorn and misunderstand, even though it gives us so much… and that’s copying.


Put simply, copying is how we learn. We can’t introduce anything new until we’re fluent in the language of our domain, and we do that through emulation.


For instance, all artists spend their formative years producing derivative work.


Bob Dylan’s first album contained eleven cover songs.


Richard Pryor began his stand-up career doing a not-very-good imitation of Bill Cosby.


And Hunter S. Thompson re-typed The Great Gatsby just to get the feel of writing a great novel.


Nobody starts out original. We need copying to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding. And after that… things can get interesting.


After we’ve grounded ourselves in the fundamentals through copying, it’s then possible to create something new through transformation. Taking an idea and creating variations. This is time-consuming tinkering but it can eventually produce a breakthrough.


James Watt created a major improvement to the steam engine because he was assigned to repair a Thomas Newcomer steam engine. He then spent twelve years developing his version.


Christopher Latham Sholes modeled his typewriter keyboard on a piano. This design slowly evolved over five years into the QWERTY layout we still use today.


And Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb — his first patent was “Improvement in Electric Lamps” — but he did produce the first commercially viable one… after trying 6,000 different materials for the filament.


These are all major advances, but they’re not original ideas so much as tipping points in a continuous line of invention by many different people.


But the most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined. By connecting ideas together creative leaps can be made, producing some of history’s biggest breakthroughs.


Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press was invented around 1440, but almost all its components had been around for centuries.


Henry Ford and The Ford Motor Company didn’t invent the assembly line, interchangeable parts or even the automobile itself. But they combined all these elements in 1908 to produce the first mass market car, the Model T.


And the Internet slowly grew over several decades as networks and protocols merged. It finally hit critical mass in 1991 when Tim Berners-Lee added the World Wide Web.


These are the basic elements of creativity: copy, transform, and combine. And the perfect illustration of all these at work is the story of the devices we’re using right now. So let’s travel back to the dawn of the personal computer revolution and look at the company that started it all…




Xerox invented the modern personal computer in the early seventies. The Alto was a mouse-driven system with a graphical user interface.


Bear in mind that a popular personal computer of this era was operated with switches, and if you flipped them in the right order, you got to see blinking lights. The Alto was way ahead of its time.


Eventually Apple got a load of the Alto, and later released not one but two computers with graphical interfaces, the Lisa and its more successful follow-up, The Macintosh.


The Alto was never a commercial product, but Xerox did release a system based on it in 1981, the Star 8010, two years before The Lisa, three years before the Mac. It was the Star and the Alto that served as the foundation for the Macintosh.


The Xerox Star used a desktop metaphor with icons for documents and folders. It had a pointer, scroll bars, and pop-up menus. These were huge innovations and the Mac copied every one of them. But it was the first combination it incorporated that set the Mac on a path towards long-term success.


Apple aimed to merge the computer with the household appliance. The Mac was to be a simple device like a TV or a stereo. This was unlike the Star, which was intended for professional use, and vastly different from the cumbersome command-based systems that dominated the era. The Mac was for the home and this produced a cascade of transformations.


Firstly, Apple removed one of the buttons on the mouse to make its novel pointing device less confusing.


Then they added the double-click for opening files. The Star used a separate key to open files.


The Mac also let you drag icons around and move and resize windows. The Star didn’t have drag-and-drop — you moved and copied files by selecting an icon, pressing a key, then clicking a location. And you resized windows with a menu.


The Star and the Alto both featured pop-up menus, but because the location of these would move around the screen, the user had to continually re-orient.


The Mac introduced the menu bar, which stayed in the same place no matter what you were doing.


And the Mac added the trash can to make deleting files more intuitive and less nerve-wracking.


And lastly, through compromise and clever engineering Apple managed to pare down the Mac’s price to $2,500. Still pretty expensive but much cheaper than the $10,000 Lisa or the $17,000 Star.


But what started it all was the graphical interface merged with the idea of the computer as household appliance.


The Mac is a demonstration of the explosive potential of combinations.


The Star and the Alto, on the other hand, are the products of years of elite research and development. They’re a testament to the slow power of transformation. But of course they too contain the work of others.


The Alto and the Star are evolutionary branches that lead back to the NLS System, which introduced windows and the mouse, to Sketchpad, the first interactive drawing application, and even back to the Memex, a concept resembling the modern PC decades before it was possible.


The interdependence of our creativity has been obscured by powerful cultural ideas, but technology is now exposing this connectedness. We’re struggling legally, ethically and artistically to deal with these implications — and that’s our final episode, Part 4.


[electronic instrumental]


What if Xerox never decided to pursue the graphical interface?


Or Thomas Edison found a different trade?


What if Tim Berners-Lee never got the funding to develop the World Wide Web? Would our world be different? Would we be further behind?


History seems to tell us things wouldn’t be so different. Whenever there’s a major breakthrough, there’s usually others on the same path. Maybe a bit behind, maybe not behind at all.


Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both invented calculus around 1684.


Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection, but Alfred Russel Wallace had pretty much the same idea at pretty much the same time.


And Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray filed patents for the telephone on the same day.


We call this multiple discovery — the same innovation emerging from different places. Science and invention is riddled with it, but it can also happen in the arts.


In film, for instance, we had three Coco Chanel movies released within nine months of each other.


Around 1999 we had a quartet of sci-fi movies about artificial reality.


Even Charlie Kaufman’s unusually original film, Synecdoche, New York, bears an uncanny resemblance to Tom McCarthy’s novel, Remainder. Both are the stories of men who suddenly become wealthy and start recreating moments of their lives, even going so far as to recreate the recreations.


And actually, this — the video you’re watching — was written just before The New Yorker published a Malcolm Gladwell story about Apple, Xerox and the nature of innovation.


We’re all building with the same materials. Sometimes by coincidence we get similar results, but sometimes innovations just seem inevitable.




Hi there. I’m Kirby. I’m the creator of “Everything is a Remix.” And thank you so much once again for watching. I would like to take a quick moment to thank the folks who contributed work to this episode, as well as my followers on Twitter who help out with research occasionally.


Uh, for the last time, financial donations are very much appreciated, welcome. They really do help make this work. So if you are in a position to donate, please visit the donate page of the website and contribute whatever the series is worth for you.


Also consider visiting the sources and references pages of the website and buy some of the books and music and movies that are there. That’s the work that I am building upon in this series, and those folks could certainly use your support as well.


Lastly, come see me live. I have speaking engagements coming up. Check out the website for details. If you’d like to book me for a speaking engagement, email me at


That’s it. Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of “Everything is a Remix,” and uh, also an exciting announcement. Take care folks. Bye-Bye.

“Everything is a Remix: Part 4”

Transcript by Kirby Ferguson. Times and concluding interview transcript added by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.


Thanks to iStockphoto for contributing footage to this episode. Check them out at


The genes in our bodies can be traced back over three-and-a-half billion years to a single organism, Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor.


As Luca reproduced, its genes copied and copied and copied and copied, sometimes with mistakes — they transformed.


Over time this produced every one of the billions of species of life on earth. Some of these adopted sexual reproduction, combining the genes of individuals, and altogether, the best-adapted life forms prospered.


This is evolution. Copy, transform and combine.


And culture evolves in a similar way, but the elements aren’t genes, they’re memes — ideas, behaviors, skills. Memes are copied, transformed, and combined. And the dominant ideas of our time are the memes that spread the most.


This is social evolution. Copy, transform and combine.


It’s who we are, it’s how we live, and of course, it’s how we create. Our new ideas evolve from the old ones.


But our system of law doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity. Instead, ideas are regarded as property, as unique and original lots with distinct boundaries.


But ideas aren’t so tidy. They’re layered, they’re interwoven, they’re tangled. And when the system conflicts with the reality… the system starts to fail.


[electronic instrumental]


For almost our entire history ideas were free.


The works of Shakespeare, Gutenberg, and Rembrandt could be openly copied and built upon.


But the growing dominance of the market economy, where the products of our intellectual labors are bought and sold, produced an unfortunate side effect.


Let’s say a guy invents a better light bulb. His price needs to cover not just the manufacturing cost, but also the cost of inventing the thing in the first place.


Now let’s say a competitor starts manufacturing a competing copy. The competitor doesn’t need to cover those development costs so his version can be cheaper.


The bottom line: original creations can’t compete with the price of copies.


In the United States the introduction of copyrights and patents was intended to address this imbalance.


Copyrights covered media; patents covered inventions. Both aimed to encourage the creation and proliferation of new ideas by providing a brief and limited period of exclusivity, a period where no one else could copy your work.


This gave creators a window in which to cover their investments and earn a profit. After that their work entered the public domain, where it could spread far and wide and be freely built upon.


And it was this that was the goal: a robust public domain, an affordable body of ideas, products, arts and entertainment available to all.


The core belief was in the common good, what would benefit everyone.


But over time, the influence of the market transformed this principle beyond recognition. Influential thinkers proposed that ideas are a form of property, and this conviction would eventually yield a new term… intellectual property.


This was a meme that would multiply wildly, thanks in part to a quirk of human psychology known as Loss Aversion.


Simply put, we hate losing what we’ve got. People tend to place a much higher value on losses than on gains.


So the gains we get from copying the work of others don’t make a big impression, but when it’s our ideas being copied, we perceive this as a loss and we get territorial.


For instance, Disney made extensive use of the public domain. Stories like Snow White, Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland were all taken from the public domain.


But when it came time for the copyright of Disney’s early films to expire, they lobbied to have the term of copyright extended.


Artist Shepard Fairey has frequently used existing art in his work. This practice came to a head when he was sued by the Associated Press for basing his famous Obama Hope poster on their photo.


Nonetheless, when it was his imagery used in a piece by Baxter Orr, Fairey threatened to sue.


And lastly, Steve Jobs was sometimes boastful about Apple’s history of copying.


Steve Jobs “We have, you know, always been shameless about stealing good ideas.”


But he harbored deep grudges against those who dared to copy Apple.


I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.


When we copy we justify it. When others copy we vilify it.


Most of us have no problem with copying… as long as we’re the ones doing it.


So with a blind eye toward our own mimicry, and propelled by faith in markets and ownership, intellectual property swelled beyond its original scope with broader interpretations of existing laws, new legislation, new realms of coverage and alluring rewards.


In 1981 George Harrison lost a 1.5 million dollar case for “subconsciously” copying the doo-wop hit “He’s So Fine” in his ballad “My Sweet Lord.”


[clip from “My Sweet Lord,” George Harrison] I really want to know you / Really want to go with you


[clip from “He’s so Fine,” performed by The Chiffons] I don’t know how I’m gonna do it (Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang) / But I’m gonna make him mine (Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)


Prior to this plenty of songs sounded much more like other songs without ending up in court. Ray Charles created the prototype for soul music when he based “I Got a Woman” on the gospel song “It Must be Jesus.”


[clip from “It Must be Jesus,” performed by The Southern Tones] There’s a man / Must be Jesus Going around / Must be Jesus / Taking names / Must be Jesus / Oh Lord


[clip from “I Got a Woman,” R. Charles, R. Richard] Say I got a woman / Way over town / Good to me / Oh yeah


[clip from “Gold Digger,” Kanye West] She give me money / when I’m in need


Starting in the late nineties, a series of new copyright laws and regulations began to be introduced…


…and many more are in the works.


The most ambitious in scope are trade agreements. Because these are treaties, not laws, they can be negotiated in secret, with no public input and no congressional approval.


In 2011 ACTA was signed by President Obama, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, currently being written in secret, aims to spread even stronger US-style protections around the world.


Of course, when the United States itself was a developing economy, it refused to sign treaties and had no protection for foreign authors. Charles Dickens famously complained about America’s bustling book piracy market, calling it “a horrible thing that scoundrel-booksellers should grow rich.”


Patent coverage made the leap from physical inventions to virtual ones, most notably, software.


But this is not a natural transition. A patent is a blueprint for how to make an invention.


Software patents are more like a loose description of what something would be like if it actually was invented.


And software patents are written in the broadest possible language to get the broadest possible protection. The vagueness of these terms sometimes can reach absurd levels.


For example, “information manufacturing machine,” which covers anything computer-like, or “material object,” which covers pretty much anything.


The fuzziness of software patents’ boundaries has turned the smartphone industry into one giant turf war.


62 percent of all patent lawsuits are now over software. The estimated wealth lost is half a trillion dollars.


The expanding reach of intellectual property has introduced more and more possibilities for opportunistic litigation—suing to make a buck. Two new species evolved whose entire business model is lawsuits: sample trolls and patent trolls.


These are corporations that don’t actually produce anything. They acquire a library of intellectual property rights, then litigate to earn profits. And because legal defense is hundreds of thousands of dollars in copyright cases and millions in patents, their targets are usually highly motivated to settle out of court.


The most famous sample troll is Bridgeport Music, which has filed hundreds of lawsuits. In 2005 they scored an influential court decision over this two-second sample.


[clip from “Get Off Your Ass and Jam,” Funkadelic] [instrumental]


That’s it. And not only was the sample short, it was virtually unrecognizable.


[clip from “100 Miles and Runnin’,” NWA] Runnin’ like I just don’t care. / Compton’s 50 miles but , yo, I’mma get there. / Archin’ my back and on a straight rough.


This verdict essentially rendered any kind of sampling, no matter how small, infringing. The sample-heavy musical collages of hip-hop’s golden age are now impossibly expensive to create.


Now patent trolls are most common back in that troubled realm of software.


And perhaps the most inexplicable case is that of Paul Allen. He’s one of the founders of Microsoft, he’s a billionaire, he’s an esteemed philanthropist who’s pledged to give away much of his fortune. And he claims basic web page features like related links, alerts and recommendations were invented by his long-defunct company.


So the self-proclaimed “idea man” sued pretty much all of Silicon Valley in 2010. And he did this despite no lack of fame or fortune.


So to recap, the full picture looks like this.


We believe that ideas are property and we’re excessively territorial when we feel that property belongs to us.


Our laws then indulge this bias with ever-broadening protections and massive rewards. Meanwhile huge legal fees encourage defendants to pay up and settle out of court.


It’s a discouraging scenario, and it begs the question: what now?


The belief in intellectual property has grown so dominant it’s pushed the original intent of copyrights and patents out of the public consciousness.


But that original purpose is still right there in plain sight.


The copyright act of 1790 is entitled “an Act for the encouragement of learning”.


The Patent Act is “to promote the progress of useful Arts.”


The exclusive rights these acts introduced were a compromise for a greater purpose.


The intent was to better the lives of everyone by incentivizing creativity and producing a rich public domain, a shared pool of knowledge, open to all.


But exclusive rights themselves came to be considered the point, so they were strengthened and expanded. And the result hasn’t been more progress or more learning, it’s been more squabbling and more abuse.


We live in an age with daunting problems. We need the best ideas possible, we need them now, we need them to spread fast.


The common good is a meme that was overwhelmed by intellectual property. It needs to spread again. If the meme prospers, our laws, our norms, our society, they all transform.


That’s social evolution and it’s not up to governments or corporations or lawyers… it’s up to us.




Hi there. I’m Kirby. I made “Everything is a Remix” with help from these folks.


Two people in particular helped contributed a lot of time and I would like to thank them real quick by name. Louis Wesolowsky did about fifteen pieces of motion graphics work for me. He contributed a lot of time, a lot of effort. The video is better because of it. My thanks to Louis.


Thanks also to Juan Behrens who did the memes animation which took a lot of work. My thanks to Juan for his patience on that.


Uh, I would like to thank also iStockphoto for their support. They donated a lot of stock footage to this episode. And I think it was one of the elements that helped raise the production quality of this episode to the highest level that it’s been yet.


So if you are in need of royalty free stock footage, do check them out because they have good service and they are nice people.


But most of all I want to thank you for your attention. I really do value it, and I try very, very hard to make the most of that time that you give me.


So, thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me. It was an absolute joy to do it.


I get asked all the time if there’s more after this. There’s not. This is the conclusion.


This is the end. There are extra things that you might enjoy but that’s the end of the main story.


So there will probably be another supplement video, kind of like the Matrix and Tarantino ones Rob G. Wilson made for me. There will probably be another video along that line.


I also have a talk coming up that will sort of uh, use the same material but sort of reframe it, streamline and kind of upgrade the arguments. And I think that it should be really good.


I’ll also have limited edition t-shirts and posters for sale in the near future. So if you would like a memento, stay tuned for those. I think they’ll be very nice.


And lastly, I have a new project coming up that I am seriously excited about it. If you are patient… hint, hint… You can probably find out more about that.


My thanks, my sincere heartfelt thanks for watching. It was really a pleasure. Thank you.


Okay. Take care and I will see you next time with a whole new thing.


All right. Take care. Bye-bye.

“Wanna Be Startin’ Something—A Remix Video About Remix”

Transcription by Amanda K. Booher

Transcriber’s Note: I’ve attempted to transcribe the lyrics (typed in italics, artists noted) used in the mashup as they appear in the video, though I’ve not identified what other instrumental music is included at those moments. This is an imperfect mode of transcribing an audio mashup.

Audio samples used in mashup:
Steve Reich – Electric Counterpoint – Slow: II
Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
Harry Nilsson – Everybody’s Talking
The Beatles – Norwegian Wood
Yes – I’ve Seen All Good People
The Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
OutKast – So Fresh, So Clean
Beyonce – Single Ladies
Al Green – Let’s Stay Together

(voices combined)
Everything in life is a reproduction.

(background music: instrumental)

All creativity requires reproduction with modification.

We are reproductions of our parents

…who are reproductions of their parents…

…and their parents…

(voices combined)
…and their parents…
…and their parents…
…and their parents…
…and their parents…

(fading v1)
…and their parents…

Reproduction defines our world

All ideas, refer to other ideas. No thought exists alone

Even the most innovative of ideas are created through reproducing other ideas.

Complete originality cannot be communicated because even language is a reproduction. The only true originality is feeling.

Reproduction allow creativity to flourish so that science, medicine, art, and literature, can evolve. Only through reproduction can something new be created. Criminalizing reproduction hinders the free-flow of ideas.

In fact, the music you’re hearing right now is illegal because it’s made from samples of other music. Reproductions.

(music mashup begins, continues through end of video)
(Michael Jackson)
So you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
So you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’

The internet is an evolution itself, through which ideas can come into greater contact with one another.

(Lady Gaga)
Ooh-la-la, want your bad romance

Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa

This is the change we must adapt to.

Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa


oh oh, oh oh oh

Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa

A free-flowing dialogue of ideas.

Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa

(Harry Nilsson)
Everybody’s talking at me

(both voices)
So that one idea can evolve into another.


I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’

Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa
Mama se mama sa ma ma coo sa

(Lady Gaga)
ra ra ra-a-ah

Into the unknown.

Mama se

Oh oh oh, oh oh oh

So you wanna be startin’ somethin’

(Lady Gaga)

you wanna be startin’ somethin’

(Lady Gaga)
Want your bad romance

Wanna be startin’
Wanna be startin’
Wanna be startin’
Wanna be startin’ somethin’

Cymbal crash – fades out

“Remix in Higher Education” Page

“Student interviews on remixing in Higher Education”

Transcript by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.


How much thought do I put into using material that is un-copyrighted. I guess…


I feel like most things are copyrighted these days so, um, it seems kinda hard to find something that


is both useful and not copyrighted I guess.


That is un-copyrighted… um… I would say not much.


A lot of the times it’s just a lot easier to find the more, um, I guess widely available videos.


I honestly, when I go into it I don’t think about whether it is copyrighted or un-copyrighted.


Whether something is like… Oh obviously I can argue a use for that or not.


It’s just like ‘that’s a cool image’. I think I’ll try to work that in there. Like nine times out of ten.


I use tons of songs and videos that, you know, are copyrighted,


but because it’s for educational uses, um, you know, I’m not too worried about getting sued over it or anything. That’s for sure.


But I know that, uh, I know that people really are, um… really do viciously defend intellectual property,


and so, uh, and, and so I don’t know, I like to definitely respect, um, people’s rights in that regard.


You know, if someone here is, you know, they’re, someone’s using a song or something in a classroom and for a school project, then they’re immediately—okay, that’s—most people I would think would say that’s fine, you know.


People are always like oh you’re a student.


Ok, yeah, that’s so cool. And their opinion completely changes when I guess they realize that you’re not making money off it or something.


In terms of fair use, I think if something is, like, based in education or for the purpose of a class, um, I know that you do have many more rights in that situation to begin with.


And then I also think just in terms of me feeling okay with using something for the purpose of a class I am more comfortable. Um, kind of like with that remix aspect of putting things together that might holistically be protected, but for the use of a class I think it’s more…


Umm. I think it helps.


I think honestly, like, you know, obviously, the more materials you can pull from the more creative you can be.


I don’t think it affects my ability to be creative, um,


because, um, I feel like if you really want to use something you can find a way to make it happen. Whether that’s recreating it in your own words, or figuring out, um, a different way to do it.


I feel like there is always a way, you know, if there’s a will there’s a way. So. Even though it’s frustrating sometimes.


Umm. So I think if that got stricter, you know, it really limits what, where, the types of influences you can pull from to make something that’s, you know, totally new, and so, um,


I’m really in favor of keeping them, definitely keeping them where they are, if anything loosening them. Because I’m definitely a proponent of taking things other people have made and expanding on them and changing them.


I mean that’s a challenge. It definitely would inhibit some creativity.


Um, I think for some people, it would kind of hinder their motivation.


I think it’d almost be demoralizing, because it’s like one of those moments where you’re like


“I have so many good ideas, but I can only use this stuff.” So it would almost, like, take away the composition part of the project and, like, putting it together. Because you have to play within these limits,


you have to put so much more time on like “what can I actually use” as opposed to taking anything, and then building something really great out of that. You’d have, like, a much smaller foundation.

“Case Study on remixing in Higher Education”

Transcript by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.


Um, no. And I think that’s because of the age that I’ve grown up in. I just feel no guilt


ripping things off the internet, reading books online for free, getting music.


I don’t, I don’t really, like… Unless it come to, like, putting something in a paper, like. I mean, I would assume


Like, if I’m, if I’m copying something off of a popular video, I would assume that, like, credit is not needed because people that are going to watch it are already going to know, like oh, like.


They’re not going to be like, “Wow they filmed that shot and they did this!” It’s like, it’s kinda like well, I mean, obviously I remixed this so, like, I don’t need to give credit to them… Like, this is a remix.


You know, it’s kinda like covering a song. Like, I’d like to know if artists are ever offended, but I think most of the time when an artist sees another artist using their work,


they’re flattered that this other artist would appreciate it enough to reuse it, and use it in a different way.


Definitely yes. Your ability to be creative? I mean, I’d say it limits your creativity.


But, in a lot of ways limiting creativity is what allows people to become creative, creative in the first place.


Like, umm. It’s much harder to stare at a blank sheet of paper and just be like create a masterpiece than it is to have something with, like, a flower drawn on it already, and you can be like, “Oh I can tweak this and I can do that.”


It’s kind of like, you know, a stepping stone. Like the beginning for you to start being creative again. It’s, I don’t know… It’s like inspiration is already there for you so you can jump off


Well, I mean, you can think of it, in a way of, um,


that quote of like, like, “always standing on the shoulders of the giants before me.” I mean nobody creates anything original. It’s always taken from something else, and… ooh… hmm…


It’s like when you… Okay, well I’m, like, thinking and I’m going the complete… I’m thinking, like…


When you present, like, an image from, like, Titanic or, like, Avatar, it’s, you’re, like, presenting this tiny little image of something that’s already so huge.


And it’s like, all this work has been done, and like, all these like, messages have been brought across with that.


So it’s like referencing that small tiny thing. Like, it’s like bringing a whole new level of communication to it. And it’s not, it’s not, it’s not like copying or taking, it’s referencing.


When you’re writing obviously you are taking from, oh that book you last read. You don’t even know it, but you’re taking from it. Like, oh you’re taking from Shakespeare…


Would it be worse if I ripped a scene from Titanic and turned it in for class than it would be if I ripped a scene from Titanic and posted it on YouTube?


I don’t think it’s like, morally different in any way. It’s just a cultural thing.


Legal is rules, and education is rules, so it’s just like… morally it doesn’t affect me, but if I’m going to follow the rules then I’m going to cite it.


I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong not to because it’s just kind of like, obvious that it’s not mine.

“Creative Commons” Page

“What is Creative Commons?”

Transcript by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.

[Background Audio track – “Whirlwind Dance” by Ghost Hunter]


[“Whirlwind Dance” plays in background]


[slightly distorted] As Isaac Newton once said, if I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants… [lyric less music overcomes back ground talking]


When you share your creativity, you’re enabling people anywhere to use it, learn from it, and be inspired by it.


Take the teacher, who shapes young minds with work and wisdom from around the globe


and the artist who builds beauty out of bits and pieces she finds online


and the writer, whose stories use ideas and images crafted by people you have never even met.


These people know that when you share your creative wealth you can accomplish great things.


They and millions of other people all around the planet are working together to build a richer, better, more vibrant culture, using Creative Commons.


But, sometimes full copyright is too restrictive.


What about when you want all those millions and millions of people out there to use your work without the hassle of coming to you for permission?


What if you want your work to be freely shared, reused, and built upon by the rest of the world?


Luckily, there’s an answer.


Creative Commons.

“Creative Commons Teaser”

Transcript by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.

[Audio samples used: “Her Fantasy” by Matthew Dear. It is playing in background throughout the video.]


[“Her Fantasy” plays]


The internet has definitely affected, you know, a lot of what I do. And I guess just the exposure of what I do.


Um, I’ve never been one to seriously criticize or defend, you know, either position.


But I’ve learned that the more music of mine that’s out there, the better. And,


uh, if people get it for free, then that’s the way they get it. But hopefully that just translates to people coming out to see me live, and


you know, that’s where I can earn, earn my wages and make a living.


Really, the more music that’s out there, the better.


[Music takes over. The following are lyrics]

It’s just one in a million hearts that feel the way, the way I do.


It’s just one in a million hearts that feel the way, the way I do

“What is Creative Commons Trying to Do?”

Transcript by Douglas R. Terry. Edited by Meredith Coffey.

[Audio Samples in the video: “17 Ghost II” by Nine Inch Nails as background music.]


[“17 Ghost II” plays in background]

What does it mean to be human if we don’t have a shared culture? And what does a shared culture mean if we can’t share it?


So it’s only in the last 100, or 150 years or so, that we started tightly restricting how that culture gets used.


The Internet enabled an infrastructure where anybody could participate without asking permission.


We have all these new technologies that allow people to express themselves, take control of their own creative impulses, but the law’s getting in the way.


Creative Commons is designed to save the world from failed sharing. People who actually want to share stuff, who put it up on the web because they want to share it under certain terms.


So we wanted to create a simple way, for creators to say to the world, here’s the freedom that I want to run with my creative work. Here are the things you’re allowed to do.


Can I reproduce it, can I copy it, can I put it in my textbook? Can I use that photograph? Can I make a new version of it?


Creative Commons gives tools to creators to make a choice about copyright.


Creative Commons license can cover anything that copyright covers.


Every license says, “You need to give me attribution. I created this, give me credit for the work I did.”


The basic choices are commercial use, or not. Can you make derivative works, versions, adaptations, or not? And do you want me to have to share alike? So if I take your stuff, do I have to offer it to the next person under the same terms?


There’s no requirement for you to do anything with your work other than what you want to do. You own the copyright to it. What we’ve done is given you the right to exercise your copyright in more ways, more simply.


So the idea here is to enable the creative impulses that the technology turns loose, and get the law out of the way.


The work of Creative Commons is really about laying the infrastructure and ground work for this new type of culture. A new kind of Folk Culture.


Somebody from Delhi, somebody from New York, somebody from Singapore, can feel comfortable using a photo that was created and given away by someone in the United States, or in China, or wherever that the licenses have been extended to. With their identity being preserved. Which means that people can actually create new kinds of things, come together and build things.


Mash-ups that people can do with people’s Flickr photos.


And CCmixter has allowed artists to make music together.


It’s really about creativity and connection.


Access and control.


From amateurs who simply for the love of what they are doing and they want to share it and they want other people to be able to make use of it, to commercial organizations.


In the end, this will have a very successful place in the for-profit economy.


Creative Commons is this bridge to this future. You’ve got to move away from thinking about content to thinking about communities. Communities that develop around content and the sharing that the licenses allow enable these communities to come together.


A physical Commons like a park where anybody can enter equally, a Commons with intellectual works is actually much freer.


It really is going to be the pillar for communications between people, cultural exchange.


The space for more speech, more free expression.


And that’s the kind of Commons we’re trying to create.

“Where’s Remix At?” Page


Transcript by Douglas R. Terry.

Transcriber’s note: The entirety of this song is a parody of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The video consists of the lyrics being ‘sung’ by politicians by cutting together their words.


[A modified beat of John Lennon’s Imagine is playing throughout the song.]


Imagine there’s no heaven.


It’s easy if you try


No hell below us


Above us only sky


Imagine all the people, living for today


Take a walk on the wild side.


1, 2, 3, 4…Imagine there’s no countries.


It isn’t hard to do that. To do, to do, to do, to do, to do


Nothing to kill or die for


No religion too; imagine all the people, living life in peace.


Take a walk on the wild side.


Take a walk on the wild side.


Imagine no possessions; I wonder if you can?


No need for greed or hunger


A brother hood of man


Imagine all the people, sharing all the world


Take a walk on the wild side.


Take a walk on the wild side.


Take a walk on the wild side.


Take a walk on the wild side.


Very tricky… uhh peace. Peace