Remixing in Online Subcultures

I know we talked about intellectual property, remixing and open source on a much larger scale in relation to large corporations today in class, but it’s very much a part of everyday online subculture as well.

These issues of ownership pop up everyday on Tumblr. I saw an artist today that was all worked up because some one tweaked one of their illustrations and reposted it “like it was theirs.” In the subculture of indie designers and bloggers intellectual property is a hot topic. They complain all the time about not receiving credit for ideas, photos, designs, etc. The popular bookmarking site Pinterest allows users to bookmark ideas, recipes, inspiration, design, photographs… virtually anything.  Sometimes the bookmark is not credited to the original source, which upsets the creators. Many bloggers have even taken the time to write about how to correctly credit others for their work. (here and here as examples).

These discussions have really opened my eyes to how different the United States is from everywhere else. I remember earlier this year a typography designer, Jessica Hische, put out an artistic rendering of a flowchart entitled, “Should I Work for Free.” A Dutch designer took the concept and created an animated website (her’s is static/print) and put it online. Hische was livid. She confronted the designer and put the whole correspondence on Twitter so everyone could watch the battle. She threated lawyers, etc. and the Dutch designer was kind of shocked that she reacted this way. Like we’ve learned, copyright is a US thing. The Dutch designer didn’t think he was doing anything wrong and told Hische that he was improving the design and making it interactive. At the time I couldn’t understand why the Dutch designer thought this was okay and now his perspective makes sense.  (I tried to find the documentation of this online, but it seems as though she’s taken it down, he also took down his website).

My mother always said if you don’t want anyone to read it (see it) then don’t write it down. This is kind of how I feel about the Internet. Once you put it out there, it’s out there and can be manipulated by whom ever, wherever, whenever.

I struggle with these concepts as an artist. To be honest, I probably would be a little upset if something I created was taken, changed, and reproduced, but our discussions in class have made me reevaluate copyright.  Plus it’s much different if it’s remixed into something awesome, versus something terrible. Also there’s the issue of money, no one wants someone else to get paid for their work.

…And if we didn’t have remixes, we wouldn’t have Internet memes or Chris Kirkham’s pecha kucha. I know that I don’t want to live in a world without the Gregory Brothers.


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