Porn in the Closet: A Tribute to CPSC 183 – by “Jennifer S – YLT2012”

Say you wake up in the morning, after a hard night of partying, surrounded by empty bottles, your hungover girlfriend, and your laptop—with windows open to kiddie porn. How the hell did that get there? What the hell is wrong with you? And what legal conundrum will you find yourself in should the police discover your hoards of mysteriously downloaded child pornography? And if, by chance, you like making fannish vids of The Land Before Time set to Prince music, can you legally claim fair use? Yes.

This is the situation that our hero faces in our magnum opus, “Porn in the Closet,” a musical tribute to the great lyrical prodigy R. Kelly. Check out the original R. Kelly song here. “Porn in the Closet” is a scandalous synthesis of modern legal code and case law governing the legality of internet activity, privacy, and free speech in the United States today.

Allow us to explain the twisted tale of our “Porn in the Closet” protagonist. Poor P. Kelly (the “P” of course stands for “Porn”) wakes up to discover child pornography–for decency’s sake, here represented by Sesame Street characters with censored chests. Police officers who thermo-scanned the house, thinking P.Kelly had a marijuana growing operation, enter P. Kelly’s place with a warrant. Their warrant was unlawfully obtained, however, according to the 2001 Supreme Court Ruling in Kyllo v. United States, which found that thermo-scanning violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure. P. Kelly lets the officers in, and they discover the laptop full of kiddie porn hidden in the closet. The laptop was given away by the sound of a Skype call, which we may legally use in our video because this is created for educational purposes and is therefore not a copyright violation, but rather fair use!

While the officers, P. Kelly, and his girlfriend Polly ponder what do about the kiddie porn situation, two DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) Agents walk in. While DMCA agents typically issue take-down requests online, the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince is particularly vengeful with protecting his music online. P. Kelly had created fannish vids, splicing footage from The Land Before Time movies with Prince songs. Thankfully, Judge Pierre Leval is on hand to clear up any confusion about transformative work and fair use. Judge Leval is in midget form, an homage to Chapter 9 of the original “Trapped in the Closet.” Our song is, of course, a parody and therefore fair use. Fannish vids are also, in fact, fair use, according to Section 107 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code.

Another knock comes on the door. P. Kelly questions what else he could have possibly done… Did they eat Roger Whitmore, the cannibalized cave explorer in The Speluncean Explorers? Did they hack into SendMail and create a virus, like the worm that wrought havoc in 1990, created by bored college student Robert Tappan Morris? No, we will never know what other internet crimes or gaffes P. Kelly has committed, because our favorite deus ex machina saves the day. Brad Rosen, in all of his glory, brings our tale to a close.
Follow along with our lyrics:
Seven o’clock in the morning
And the rays from the sun wakes me
I’m stretchin’ and yawnin’
My laptop is there right beside me
And I hear her retching from the bathroom
Then along comes Polly, she kisses me
And unsurprisingly she’s hungover, skank.

Now I’ve got this dumb look on my face
Like, what have we done?
How could I be so stupid to have downloaded all this kiddie porn?
Must have blacked out last night
Oh, what was on my mind?
Met on 4chan, took her home
Didn’t plan to sing this song
Knock on the door hearin, “Police, open up!”
My girlfag looks at me
Tells me to delete the kiddie porn
Keep trying to close windows
“Kiddie porn move out my way”
Police said “We have a warrant”
“Open up sometime today!”
“Shit think, shit think,  shit quick: put it in the closet.”

“Smelled weed last night,
Got a warrant to search your place.
Thermo-scanned your house,
Think you have a growing space.”
“Grow weed? What, we don’t do that.
That was just my tanning bed.”

You’re not gonna believe it, but things get deeper as the story goes on
Next thing you know they hear my laptop with the kiddie porn

“This is child pornography
We’re going to have to take you in”
“Whoa, this isn’t our kiddie porn
Someone else must have put that there.
We’re not into that
We only watch porn between legally-consenting, and unionized disease-free adults”

I’m telling you now, I wish this was the worst part of my day
But then another knock
In walks an agent of the DMCA
We’re by the closet, like man, what the fuck is happenin’?
“We have a takedown request”
From the artist formerly known as Prince
Is this about my fannish vids?  Those were transformative
Land Before Time needed a bit of Prince
Fair use from section 107 of Title 17 of the US Code
A midget said, “Vidding is fair use.”
“Oh I didn’t watch it”
And I’m like, “God it’s Judge Pierre Leval from the second circuit!”

“Why is he a midget?”
“We needed a midget.”
She says, “Baby, we’re in deep shit.”
Another knock on the door.
We stop, all look at each other
Like, Who the hell is that
We say, “What else did we do?”
We need a jailbreak IRL
Did we eat Roger Whitmore?
Did we hack into mail?
The knocking gets louder
I pull out my Baretta
They pull out their Tasers
Said “Don’t tase me bro!”
Midget opens the door
I can’t believe it’s Brad Rosen…

YouTube Poop: Meme as Art, Community – by “William A – YLT2012”

(Disclaimer 1: The linked videos and those related to it may contain offensive content, sudden loud noises, flashing effects, and really offensive content)

(Disclaimer 2: Based on comments received from much more knowledgeable people, this article may not fully represent the current state of YouTube Poop. I have therefore made some edits. Please refer to the comments for more info.)

Imagine how Dorothy must have felt when she was swept up by that cyclone and plopped into the bright land of Oz. Now imagine if, two minutes before the storm, she had drunk three Four Lokos, eaten a large pizza topped with shrooms, and done a thousand jumping jacks. The result is probably something resembling YouTube Poop, a thriving art form that lurks in the underbelly of YouTube. As its name implies, YouTube Poop involves video remixes that reduce their source material into nonsense. The resulting video (called a “poop”) subverts its original content by slicing and dicing the video and audio, adding visual effects, and mashing several videos into one. Far from an incidental outgrowth of the YouTube culture, YouTube Poop draws from a heritage of the vidding community (not to mention being a sterling example of the fair use doctrine). And it’s a large community; there are craploads of poops on YouTube for our viewing (dis)pleasure. A good place to start may be “The Valley Place What Contains Some Dinosaurs” by the venerated (and retired) pooper WalrusGuy.

It's like a cross between a pineapple!

Poops are usually humorous, whether intentionally or not. Most of the humor draws from the pooper’s reinterpretation of memes. In WalrusGuy’s poop, an episode of “Valley of the Dinosaurs” gets outfitted with sex jokes, dark humor, and general absurdity. Another example of YouTube Poop’s memetic flywheel is found in one of the most common sources used for poop: the cutscenes of the CD-I computer game “Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon” and “Zelda: The Faces of Evil.” For whatever reason – the terrible animation or the absurd dialogue, most likely – these cutscenes are popular among poopers. Take a look at the opening scene from “The Wand of Gamelon.”

I wonder what's for dinner?

Now compare it to “jonathan swift returns from the dead to eat a cheese sandwich” by madanonymous.

Don't worry, Zelda.

The visuals have been twisted beyond belief, disorienting the viewer. Madanonymous’ other works draw on this same technique, heavily manipulating familiar sources into oblivion. Other poops may take a more story-oriented approach, such as CaptainOhYeah’s “Bubble Buddy slaughters his victims without pity or remorse,” which uses another popular source: Spongebob.

Bubble Buddy is evil.

Given YouTube Poops’ close relationship with memes, it’s not surprising that they generate their own memes. These memes, or “fads,” involve a short source video that spawns hundreds of remixed responses. One fad, from 2010, used a short clip from a “Rugrats” episode, in which Stu Pickles has an existential crisis about chocolate pudding.

Because I've lost control of my life.

Fads answer the question “What else can you do to this 21-second clip?” by providing response after response after response. It’s here where the community behind YouTube Poop is in full force. It’s best to consider YouTube Poop as an art, a collaborative medium in which video culture is the hero, reinterpreting a source to often hilarious effect. Yes, it’s bizarre, but it’s a wonderful example of the sharing culture that YouTube has created, the cross relation of obscurities and tropes.

For the history and general theory of poops, read here. For more poops, type “youtube poop” into the site’s search bar and enjoy your trip to Oz. refer to the suggestions given by commenters below.

Final Project: Making Things – by “Nick D”

The Makerbot Thing-O-Matic (Attribution: Makerbot on Flikr)

I finally posted my 10th thing to Thingiverse! The road has been fun and the interactions I had with the community were better than I expected!

The idea of my final project was to ask friends and classmates for ideas for physical objects that they would like to have that could be 3D printed on the Makerbot. I designed them on an educational version of Solidworks, printed them out on my Makerbot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer and gave them to the people who requested them. I also uploaded the designs onto Thingiverse (an online site maintained by Makerbot Industries to facilitate sharing designs of physical objects with other users) which made them available to anyone else who wanted to use or improve them. I released all of my designs under an Attribution – Non-Commercial – Share Alike license. This project explored first hand the collaboration and network effects that we had been talking about in class. It allowed me to get some really neat ideas into people’s hands and onto the web community so others could benefit from the designs.

If you don’t know, the Thing-O-Matic is an open source, open hardware 3D printer developed by Makerbot Industries. The Thing-O-Matic is capable of making 3D parts out of ABS thermoplastic within a build envelope of approximately 4″ x 4″ x 4″. For those of you who didn’t get the chance to see my presentation in class, here is a time-lapse video of the device’s construction and the device printing out a toy bell.

Each design started out as an idea or suggestion. Many times I found designs online that served as a good starting point and I worked from there. When I had decided on a plan, I designed the object in Solidworks, a 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software package. Solidworks is a parametric feature-based modeling tool, where 2D sketches are extruded or cut to create 3D objects. Here is a quick run-through for creating a simple square cutout on the program:

Step 1 - Draw a 2D Sketch and Add Dimensions


Step 2 - Extrude Features


Step 3 - Create 3D Body


Step 4 - Draw Another 2D Sketch for New Features and Add Dimensions


Step 5 - Cut Features


Step 6 - Finished Model


Step 7 - Scale, Rotate, and Adjust before exporting to the Makerbot


Step 8 - Commence Creation!


Step 9 - Let Cool and Remove Print

With a lot of sketching, extruding and cutting (and a few other tricks) you can make any 3D object you can think of – when it comes to a generative hardware technology unconstrained by the vendor, this is where it is happening!

Did the project work out as well as I hoped? It sure did! All in all, I have nearly 100 combined “likes” (to date) from other Thingiverse users on the things I designed, which ranged from medical devices to toy planes. One of my designs was featured on Thingiverse, having caught the eye of an administrator as a particularly good design. I even had other users printing out my designs (and taking pictures of them to show off!).

So, you may ask, what did I end up designing? Here is a run-through of the 10 “things” that I made.

 _   _   _   _

Thing 1: X-Acto Knife/Hex Wrench Holder


Likes: 7

Thing 1 - A Thing for Tools


This thing was an integrated tool holder that attached to a pre-existing part on the Makerbot. It was something I had been thinking about for a while and wanted to make, and it served as a nice upgrade to my printer. Another user thought so too –

“Nice. I had been thinking about some kind of clip or mount for the wrench for some time.” – DigitalBytes, Okotoks, Canada

This design was featured the next day, having caught the eye of a Thingiverse Admin. For my first “thing”, it was such an exhilarating feeling to have been featured. In retrospect, this may very well have been by design (maybe all first time posts get featured?). In any event, it accomplished the goal of getting me excited to contribute more.

 _   _   _   _

Thing 2: Parametric Radial Ornament

Likes: 8

Thing 2 - A Thing for a Tree


This thing was an ornament, which played with the printer’s ability to create enclosed negative space. I was asked to design an ornament by a friend and I was inspired by the tear-drop shaped ornaments and a whisk.

 _   _   _   _

Thing 3: Decorative Coat Hook

Likes: 11

Thing 3 - A Thing for a Coat

This thing was a coat hook for a friend who had run out of her 3M hooks and wanted something a little more aesthetically pleasing. I designed it to accept adhesive backing as well as a nail, for some flexibility in mounting.

What was exciting about this design was that another user MacGyver in Salt Lake City, UT liked the design and printed one out for himself! He commented:

“I’ve been looking for just this thing for awhile now. Thanks for the upload!” – MacGyver, Salt Lake City, UT

He also posted a picture of the design. This was electronic transmission of hardware! Talk about COOL!

A Copy of Thing 3 Printed by MacGyver

 _   _   _   _

Thing 4: Recycled Bottle Coat Hanger

Likes: 38

Thing 4 - A Thing for a Closet

This thing was an attempt to do some recycling while designing and was requested by a friend who is very environmentally conscious. I was inspired to create this design from a similar product by Chinese designer Xuan Yu. I thought this was a great way to recycle 2 bottles while utilizing the printer’s capabilities. Here is an image of the print before I cleaned off the support material and assembled it.

Thing 4 with Support Material

This was the most “liked” design that I put together and the comments were so encouraging –

“This idea is amazingly clever! What a wonderful way to combine a 3D printer and recycling bottles to make a useful product. ” – PolygonPusher, Sweden

“What a brilliant idea!!” – Rasle500, Denmark

“This is genius !” – mrule,  Providence, RI

I didn’t really expect to get such good feelings from sharing my designs with the community, but here I was, excited to post more!

  _   _   _   _

Thing 5: Glasses and Cleaning Cloth Moustache Stand

Likes: 7

Thing 5 - A Thing for a Pair of Glasses

This thing was suggested to keep a pair of glasses safe and cleaning cloth handy. It a “moustache stand” – a play on a design my girlfriend found here. The Makerbot is capable of printing out in different colors (depending on what color raw material you have). I had a spool of black ABS and I thought it would work well with the design.

   _   _   _   _

Thing 6: Arrow Bookend

Likes: 4

Thing 6 - A Thing for Books

This thing was requested and designed using inspiration from a similar bookend.

At this point, I was really getting into the groove of cranking a couple of designs out a day! It was really fun watching my designs and waiting for comments, “likes”, and printed copies by others!

    _   _   _   _

Thing 7: Plantar Fasciitis Pain Reduction Apparatus

Likes: 4

Thing 7 - A Thing for Pain Reduction
Illustration of Using Thing 7

This thing was suggested to me by a Physical Therapist who sufferers from pain due to Plantar Fasciitis to help alleviate discomfort. It was a resting splint for sleeping or relaxing (not walking) designed to apply tension on the ball of the foot. This was an improvement over current devices that put tension on the toe using a tight fitting sock, which causes discomfort to the toe. The printed component allows the foot to be supported with the commercially available straps.

    _   _   _   _

Thing 8: Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel Toy Model

Likes: 7

Thing 8 - A Thing for Fun
The Sentinel (Thing 8's Inspiration) ©TruthDowser / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GFDL

This thing was suggested to me by an engineer and enthusiast. It is a miniature mockup of the Sentinel stealth drone (also known as the Beast of Kandahar) developed by Lockheed Martin.

I thought I would have a little fun with the caption too, given recent events in relation to this story.

“Iran got an early Christmas present… So can you!”

    _   _   _   _

Thing 9: Photo Keychain

Likes: 2

Thing 9 - A Thing for a Photo

This thing was the only design that featured two separate interlocking parts. A suggestion came along for a photo frame keychain for backpack or purse. One could place a photo within (1″x1.5″ size) along with a 1″x1.5″x.25″ piece of plexiglass and snap/glue the pieces together to create the keychain.

Thing 9 Separated

_   _   _   _

Thing 10: Watch Stand

Likes: 14

Thing 10 - A Thing for a Watch

This thing was modeled after those watch stands they have in stores for holding watches up in display cabinets. A friend wanted one so that they could hold their watch up to the light to charge their solar watch during the wintertime.

_   _   _   _

I want to thank everyone who contributed ideas and helped me make this final project possible!

If you would like to check out my things on thingiverse, visit Indigojin.


Happy Holidays everyone!

I couldn't resist! (Design by tc_fea)

“Memory Cream” – by “Daniel S”

“Memory Cream” is a short animation done through collage that explores the idea of imitation through memes.

Memes, for Richard Dawkins (who coined the term), are much more than videos of Keyboard Cat, they are bits of information that survive through imitation and make up what we call “Culture.”

The story imagines the psycho-somatic effects that certain Youtube videos would have on subjects, supposing they applied a “Memory Cream”* which would allow them to mutate (evolve), freely, rapidly. (“all life evolves by the differential survival or replicating entities”). This “evolution” of language and behavior is assumed to be illegal and dangerous for the institutions of Copyright because it builds off, maybe too overtly, from pre-existing culture.

Several instances of “memes” are explored: the almost subconscious repetition of a catchy tune**, the popular “flames of hell” of certain religions, identification and imitation of the Popstar, the origin of fashions, sexual and cultural attitudes learned from transgressive stars (Marlene Dietrich in this case) and the machinery of advertisement and “mass-media.”

It was inspired by Hannah Höch (a pioneer of remix culture), the Cyborg Manifesto, and Carnivore Plants.


* “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. `Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like `gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme.(2) If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to `memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with `cream’.” (Dawkins)
** “But occasionally Jenkins was privileged to witness the `invention’ of a new song, which occurred by a mistake in the imitation of an old one. He writes: `New song forms have been shown to arise variously by change of notes and the combination of parts of other existing songs … The appearance of the new form was an abrupt event and the product was quite stable over a period of years. Further, in a number of cases the variant was transmitted accurately in its new form to younger recruits so that a recognizably coherent group of like singers developed.’ Jenkins refers to the origins of new songs as `cultural mutations’.” (idem.)

Usher – Love in this…Computer Program? – by “Daniel E”

As a music enthusiast who has been listening hip-hop, pop, techno and R&B for years, I have realized that I love songs with samples. Whether I recognize the sample or not, there is something special about songs that contain older recordings. Vocal samples are typically very catchy and add soul to a record. Instrumental samples stand out as riffs in new records.

As a music producer though, I avoid sampling at all cost. I do not want to risk having injunctions filed against any project I work on or receive emails requesting royalties from a song I produce. Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films set the stage for the feeling. The Court of the Appeals for the 6th Circuit was direct when it said, “Get a license or do not sample.” Even using a few notes of a song without a license could make me liable for copyright infringement.

But just for this class and this blog post, I’ll step outside my comfort box. Here is our case study:

One of the top songs from 2008, was Usher’s “Love in this Club.” The song was very success due in part to its smooth synth backdrop and euro-inspired melody. According to the song’s entry on Wikipedia, the song’s producer, Polow da Don, was inspired to create a beat during his weekend stay in Las Vegas for the MTV Video Music Awards. He said of the song, “If you listen to the beat, the synths and everything has a [Las] Vegas feel to it. Making love in the club, people in [Las] Vegas are kinda wild” (Wikipedia). The song toped the billboard charts and has sold over 2.4 million units according to Nielsen Soundscan.

Take a listen. Play close attention to the instrumental.

Ok, now remember I do not sample from other records. Last night I went into the recording studio and made this:

I think this raises some interesting questions. It turns out that “Love in this Club” is based on pre-made loops found in Apple’s music Jampack software that can be accessed through Logic or Garageband. Would I be liable for copyright infringement to the copyright owner of “Love in this Club”  because I took “riffs” of the song? It is likely my version would pass the “de minimis” standard the District Circuit applied and  my usage would likely to “rise to the level of a legally cognizable appropriation.”

Yet, I probably would argue that Apple created these loops “royalty-free.” Users do not have to acquire an additional license or pay royalties to Apple when they use the loops. Additionally, users should not be able to win a lawsuit against other users for merely using the same loop since they are not user’s “original” creations. I may be liable for copyright infringement though if my arrangement exactly mimics the arrangement in “Love in this Club.” It would be interesting to see the reaction from the owners of “Love in this Club” if a major artist uses these loops and produces a hit record.

Here is some proof you can find these loops in Garageband. A few other recognizable sounds from pop music, like the drums from Rihanna’s “Umbrella” seem to be part of the same software bundle.

Copyright in a Free (gratis) World – by “Max C.”

I track all of my time on my computer with a utility called RescueTime. Here’s a breakdown of how I interact with the copyrighted online world. For the month of January

The big idea: I’m spending 628% more time on copyrighted content that is being given away than content I’m paying for. Much of it is ad-supported, but much of that ad money never ends up in the pocket of the artist: most content creators on youtube, reddit, 9gag, devour, or blogs never profit off of their creations.

Free needs different protections

Copyright is a way for people to monetize and control their creations. Yet in its current form, copyright law only protects the already wealthy and powerful: corporate intellectual property. Free artists can’t control their creations with copyright. The artists don’t have the resources to monitor and sue those who take copyrighted material. Nor can free artists create protection mechanisms. DRM is only viable as a large corporation with an R&D budget, and even then, DRM is a miserable failure. Right now, free internet artists generally cede all control of their art from the moment they upload it. (In fact, some of the websites they upload to explicitly seize the rights.) These free copyrighted works cost almost nothing to reproduce, and were never intended to be monetized.

Do you really think someone was going to monetize this?

How existing copyright law harms free art

Copyright law doesn’t just fail to protect free art: it actively harms it. A free artist today produces lots of goods that render him vulnerable to copyright infringement. Because a three note sample can lead to a lawsuit of copyright infringement, and even a successful legal defense can take years and cost millions, free artists might err on the side of not producing rather than risk infringing. (Franzia could sue this free artist for this useful infographic, but I doubt it’s really hurting their business.)

Because nothing is being bought or sold, free artists would generally like you to spread their work. The more eyeballs see it, the greater success— a fabulous piece of free art that is never viewed or linked to is pointless and disheartening to the artist. However, existing copyright makes users hesitant to spread or repost potentially copyrighted material for fear of infringement.

Among ad-supported artists like sponsored youtube channels or personalities like Day9, it’s not clear small-scale copyright infringement harms them. Downloading Avatar might mean you won’t buy a ticket to see it in the theater, but downloading Day9 might make you a loyal follower and in fact increase the value of his brand. Indeed, Day9 acknowledges and throws shout-outs to those who remix his own copyrighted material.

Why Creative Commons isn’t an easy fix

Seriously guys, your FAQ is 23 pages long. That's way more reading than I'll do to license my forever alone image macro.

Creative Commons was supposed to patch existing copyright law and help out free artists interested in permitting others to redistribute their works. It recognizes that many artists that produce freely available works still would like attribution or recognition— indeed, that is the only payoff! But Creative Commons is tricky for small-time creators, and increases the barriers to entry. Big idea: using Creative Commons is a barrier which chills creation.

Edit: there are lots of reasons why Creative Commons is a barrier or less effective than a legal change in defaults. To name just a few, Creative Commons introduces complications in web design (do you have to attach those symbols every time you place an image anywhere in a website? How do users with direct URLs to an image find out if it’s licensed under Creative Commons?), Creative Commons is hard to understand for most people (copyright law is confusing business), and Creative Commons is particularly tricky with especially important free media, like Wikipedia. (Wikipedia actually requires ceding a lot of author rights to upload)

These problems would be resolved if content defaulted into being available for non-commerical reproduction/use with attribution. In many file types, attribution is not only possible but often automatic via metadata. Producers would no longer need to understand complicated terms of an extra body like Creative Commons. And people that really didn’t care wouldn’t have to lift a finger in order to permit others to edit, remix, and repost their content.

Solution: If the default for internet-published material was attribution and non-commercial use, and corporate creators would have to opt in to greater protections, we’d have a better system for copyright. And we’d have more lolcats. Are you really going to be against this?

PS: this is the most permissible Creative Commons license (Attribution) but in reality, you’re free to not attribute me. I don’t care. And I don’t want other people to have to add these kinds of disclaimers to works they don’t care about. We should force those that want to enforce their copyright fully to opt-in.

Re:Re:Re:Mix. A project by Brendan Griffiths and Brian Watterson. – by “Brendan G”

Re:Re:Re:Mix is a project about the issues and implications surrounding fair use and copyright law. In 2007 YouTube released Content ID, a system that enables copyright holders to choose in advance whether they want to track, monetize, or remove their content from YouTube entirely. The system uses fingerprinting technology to identify a copyrighted work by comparing audio and video tracks. If either match, the video will be flagged by the system and the copyright holder will be notified. The problem is that Content ID doesn’t consider fair use. And it can’t, because only a human can discern between an infringing work and one that falls under fair use, a doctrine which allows for commentary, news reporting, research, teaching and scholarship, and criticism.

As makers we feel it is important to highlight these problems and inform other artists of their rights. All creative works are referential to some degree, and to prohibit works from entering the zeitgeist of Internet culture is in direct conflict with the original intention of copyright law: to promote the progress of science and useful arts.

Traditional Remix vs Digital Remix: A Transforming Conception of Authorship – by “Paul R”

In writing Hamlet, Shakespeare borrowed from Saxo Grammaticus. Are digital remixes any different?

(Note: this blog post grew out of a lively conversation on the cpsc184 email discuss list. Credit goes to Jacob Albert for pointing to the original article on the German author and starting the discussion.)

A few days ago, the New York Times reported on young German novelist Helene Hegemann, 17, who had made it to the bestseller list despite criticism over plagiarism, including lifting an entire page from another work without citation. While instances of plagiarism are no means unique, what made this case interesting is that while Hegemann apologized for not citing her sources, she also explained that she was part of a younger generation that freely remixes culture and information. On the discuss list, Elizabeth asked about the ethical questions of not citing and helpfully pointed to a Harper’s article by Jonathan Lethem that situates the act of borrowing from other authors and artists in a long historical tradition, and Brendan suggested that perhaps contemporary remixes should be understood within this artistic tradition.

To respond to this last point, I think there’s an important difference between traditional remixes from the past (i.e. literature, art, and everything else Lethem discusses) and the remix culture on the internet. It’s true that remixing is centuries old and artistically valid, but in the article Hegemann argues that there’s something about this digital generation which is distinct. The relevant question then is to ask is what is different about new technology that changes cultural attitudes about remixes.

I would argue that it is the conception of authorship that has shifted, transformed by the cultural networks created by new technologies. In the recent pre-digital past, the standard was that some defined person or group created a work and was considered the author of the work. Even if an object was cobbled together from many different sources, there was always some identifiable creator recognized as source. For example, even though Shakespeare or Burroughs or the Dadaists borrowed from other work, we still identify them as the authors of the original piece which resulted, and we understand that it is their genius and creativity which made something new out of the old.

Contrast that situation with cultural attitudes about authorship surrounding digital memes. When someone decides to make another lolcat or other kind of meme the user often posts anonymously and there’s no obligation to cite the original source–indeed the original author is usually obscure, unknown (nobody knows who came up with “I can haz cheezburger“) and most importantly irrelevant. What matters is not the sense of individual authorship but rather the self-referentiality of the community as a whole. As Alex Leavitt makes clear in an article on digital memes that Elizabeth sent out, memes only make sense in terms of “subcultural networks,” and identifiable authorship is secondary. Hegemann’s assertion that, “there’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity” can only work in this digital context. In the pre-digital age, it would have been absurd to say that T.S. Elliott created nothing original because he took from other sources, and part the reason is that the concept of authorship was so enshrined.

We can use this distinction of conceptions of authorship to answer some of the ethical questions surrounding plagiarism. In the pre-digital age, it was more necessary to cite your sources, because those authors too were understood as being original and creative. Thus, not sourcing them was to appropriate their originality and therefore plagiarism. But in a digital memetic community, plagiarism doesn’t make any sense as a concept–if there is “no such thing as originality,” then there is no such thing as appropriation from others and further there is no assertion that the work is “your own.” In a memetic community, citation isn’t an ethical question because plagiarism cannot exist.

What is interesting with Hegemann’s situation, however, is that it actually doesn’t fall neatly into either one of these distinct conceptions of authorship–she borrows parts of both. On the one hand, the form she is using, the book, has a long tradition of valuing authorship. In our age, books are understood as the formal expression of a person or group of persons and it is hard to escape that (for example, even if you want to publish anonymously, you still usually would use a pen name). On the other hand, her conception of authorship has been influenced by digital communities (the internet, D.J.’s, Berlin youth culture, etc.) which do not necessarily value authorship and therefore do not place importance on citation. Thus, I’d argue that the reason that this example is so controversial is that it is a site where two conceptions of authorship are coming into direct conflict. Attribution is the locus of this conflict because it marks one’s allegiances–citing sources signals a traditional understanding of authorship, not citing signals a digitally influenced understanding of authorship.

Paul Ramirez

We are all remixers now – by “Brendan G”

If you come to the Net armed with the idea that the old system of copyright is going to work just fine here, this more than anything is going to get you to recognize: you need some new ideas.

–Lawrence Lessig on ThruYou

With hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded every day, YouTube represents a vast resource for mashup artists, producers, and now even consumers to sample, remix, and invent new contexts for existing visual and audio works. Sampling and remixing has been in wide practice for decades now, but new end-user mashup tools are changing both the speed and exposure of the medium, as even relative amateurs are able to produce and disseminate remixes without complex software or technical knowledge.

There are already an increasing number of artists working exclusively from user generated, or amateur, content sourced from YouTube and other media sharing websites. An often-cited example is Kutiman’s ThruYou, a site built entirely from existing YouTube clips. The site’s design even references YouTube as seen here:


There are also artists such as DJ Mike Relm who use YouTube to remix both songs and video live. Although most of the examples I found seem to rely on a lot of pre-prepared material the concept of live djing with YouTube as your infinite record crate is a promising one.

In the past year, new websites have made this kind of remixing even simpler, allowing anyone with access to a web browser to create mixes of multiple YouTube clips on the fly. I was first made aware of this phenomenon through YouTube Doubler, shown here with a mashup of Usher’s Papers with the widely trafficked Man Goat meme:

A similar site,, provides the same basic functionality but allows the user to control the mix between the two clips. As these tools become increasingly sophisticated, it will become more and more difficult to police the Internet to the standard set forth in Bridgeport v. Dimension.

I believe sites such as YouTube Doubler would not be subject to copyright law, as they are merely linking to existing content hosted on YouTube. For example, if Usher’s record label wanted to remove his song from the mashup cited above, they would likely have to make their case against YouTube. And to be clear, uploading Papers verbatim to YouTube is not, and probably should not be, considered fair use. But the mashup of this content could be considered parody and therefore should be protected by the first amendment.

The issue becomes complicated, however, by the fact that the instance parody exists only on the end-users computer, where both clips are played simultaneously. Although each clip may be subject to copyright protection, it is through the resulting combination that a new, transformative, work is generated.