21.02.2012

Creation vs Imitation - Rip-Off vs Remix

creation vs imitation - ripoff vs remix


"Intelectual Property is the oil of the 21st century" is a quote by Mark Getty, chairman of Getty Images, one of the biggest businesses that deals with Intelectual Property as a merchandise.
In the last years we have been witnessing how Intelectual Property (IP) has become a very discussed term in the media and society. All the Patent-Fights the Big Boys have been conducing (just think about Apple & Android), the court-battles many artists (specially musicians) are fighting because of possible rip-offs... all of them have something in common:

it´s all about IP.

In times were many goods can be easily reproduced (specially digital goods) at low cost, the original creators of this goods have become more pro-active in defending themselves. Allthough copycats have existed since mankind arrived on the surface of the earth, the size of the potential market for goods (specially digital goods) has increased immensly since the internet has become part of everyones daily life. And when the market is big... the potential profit is big, too. So, the incentive to defend someones IP is backed up buy an economical factor. Also, the possibility for the original creator to get notice of an infringement has grown to a degree that makes it much more easier to chase the thief. Google Images or TinEye or PicScout for example are services that are continuously scanning the web for images/photographies/illustrations and indexing them in giant databases. So, if you want to search for an image and check if someone else is using it... piece of cake: click on it and *voila* you may be surprised about where your images is being used.

But this does not only work for images, if you try to upload a video to Youtube and you´re using a soundtrack that does not belong to you (i.e. you don´t have the right to use it, i.e. someone elses IP) and they have it registered in their database... well, then you get the advice that you´re not allowed to upload it that way.

it´s all about IP.

But what is IP actually? Allthough it´s a very complicated issue, one could define it basically as the rights (backed up by the law) some has over a certain creation. Other terms that relate to IP are Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights. So, if someone creates something original (i.e. that does not exist before), then he gets rights granted over the use of it. For example, if you creat an original song, then the Law protects you by granting you  the possible profits from the use of it by the radios. If you create an image the Law protects you via Copyright of this image. If somebody else wants to use your song or image he has to get your permission for doing so. By granting you protection the Law also backs up incentive to create: if you would not get any advantage for creating something, then, in most cases, you would not create anything. Ok, artists are sometimes the exception of this rule. Some create just for the sake of creation, but the majority of persons are more likely to create if they gain something of the creation. This gain can be monetary, but can also be just popularity or gaining image.

So, IP is actually something positive because it drives the creativity potential of human kind. You may argue that not all creations have been positive for the society, but in sum humanity would not exist if there would be no creativity.

it´s all about IP.

One of the biggest problems of IP is actually a part of its name: the Property. Property or owndom is commonly defined as an entity that is owned by someone. This someone has got the rights for using it. So, if you want to grant IP of something to someone you first have to define if he/she has got the right to own it. And this is the moment where the sh*t hits the fan: in order to grant the ownership you have to check that there is noone else who claims the ownership. And this brings us to the headline of this posting: where does creation end and where does imitation begin? When is something a rip-off or a remix of something that already existed before?

it´s all about IP.

While searching for information about this topic I found a very interesting video-serie by Kirby Ferguson labeled "Everything is a Remix". You can also read his thoughts about this at his homepage http://www.everythingisaremix.info.

If you like the topic then take your time and watch this 4 videos about creation, copying, transforming and combining. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 2:

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part3:

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 4:

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

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