Appropriation and Remix Culture in our Technological Times

Here’s the entire film via UbuWeb

In “Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative” John Oswald disguises the technologies that are changing the way we see piracy. As I read this essay I couldn’t help but think of the fact that this essay was written in 1985. In 85 I was a young child and totally obsessed groups like Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy. The hip-hop music of that time was heavily sample driven music and now from this class I realize what has caused the death of the music I loved as a child. If I start to think of some of the best albums of that time (Bestie Boys “Paul’s Boutique”) I know that albums like that will never made again because I would be too expensive to get all the rights for the samples. I also see that the main difference now is that they stopped going after the artist for a cut of their new art form and started going after their fans.

This essay makes me sad because the optimism that Oswald has that laws will change with the growth of technology.But here we are over twenty years latter and it has not happened. It has only escalated to turning ordinary every day people into criminals for downloading or sharing the music that they love. I agree with Oswald that music is pounded into or heads without our consent yet, if we happen to take it in and use it we are wrong. I also agree with the idea that someone owning a sequence of note is just ridiculous.

On a completely different note I just say a mash-up on the Oscars. I will try to find it and post it on the blog.


Just like this pic and thought it applied to the class. So here you go.

Steal this Film

Reading through the article, the word cryptomnesia first interested me. I searched online and found the definition that it is a memory bias where one person though one came upon something new or original but actually is forgotten memory that one did not recognize. It is really common in the filed of art where people come up with similar ideas and one cannot be sure is it really plagiarism or cryptomnesia.

Due to some cultural differences, some of the examples I cannot relate and this may have effected how I understood the article a little bit. I first became aware of the difficulty of examples when the film The Lineup was introduced. Some of the examples really went over my head and even I research it I still cannot gain full understanding.

And people can grasp that it is plagiarism but what if the author never realize or recognize it and take his or her production as original? If there is to be a law written about plagiarism, what is the line between plagiarism, quotation, manipulation? When I come up with a new idea, I often write it down in my notebook and sometimes I found out that the new idea that I thought is new is already written and next to it I also wrote where I got the idea from. Should this be considered plagiarism or cryptomnesia?

This also kind of reminds me of learning history. Everybody tries to be original but once one find out the ideas are from history, how should one take it? My father tells me that no matter what, humans are foolish and that things and events just rotate. Even though it happens in different time periods and seem to show in different context and reasoning, events, things and ideas in history show up again and again and just make me think is there anything that is considered original? Everything seems to be a manipulation or quotation of anything possible and it is hard to prove it.

Take Disney cartoons for example. The one I totally find familiar is Mulan. It is taken from the Chinese folk tale Hua Mulan and gave it a twist to make the story more heroic and funny. In the original story, nobody found out that Mulan is a girl until she dressed into her own clothes when she returned home and approach her friends in the army. She never did something as heroic as going to the palace and saving the emperor. The only part taken from the original tale is that she did take her father’s place in the army and trained like all soldiers. This should be called manipulation or plagiarism, as some of the story comes from original ideas, some from the folk tale and some form traditional Chinese customs.

Plagiarism is so hard to identify and the issue of copyright never goes away.

Hah. What an epic twist at the end. I tip my hypothetical plagiaristic hat to you, Mr. Lethem. Through out this entire essay I was thinking, yes, this guy makes some good points, but they are a bit lost because the entire structure is a bit nonsensical. But I completely forgive him, even though it makes commenting on the many points he makes (or is it really him that makes them?) a bit difficult.

Here is what was going on in my mind: Firstly, I liked that the MPAA “You wouldn’t steal a handbag advertisement!” ad was mentioned, because frankly, if I could download a car, I would do it. Secondly, I’m not entirely convinced with the gift economy theory as it applied to original work. A gift implies that I do not get anything tangible in return, which, in this consumer culture, means that there will be no economic incentive to create. In turn, it also means that if everything is a gift, the concept of “worth” will be eliminated, which means that there will be no distinction between what is good and what is bad. This does not present a good outcome. Finally, I feel like it’s just a matter of time until the old corporate Disney-esque generation will die out, and the newer generation that is more acquainted with remix culture will control the copyright patents, and will be more lenient with them.