RiP: A remix manifesto

In the simplest terms, it’s a thinker.

RiP: A remix manifesto documents the struggles of creators around the world to produce art and entertainment without being sued and/or shutdown. As one speaker in the film points out, nothing is created in a vacuum. As a result, everything is influenced by something else – nothing is unique or wholly new.

Brett Gaylor is a Web activist that felt the need to take action when his favourite artist, Girl Talk, was being threatened with lawsuits for his “mash-ups” (samples of songs mixed together to create a new song; one mash-up could consist of samples from 21 other songs). The documentary explores issues of copyright in the information age as various people continue to breakdown the wall between users and producers.

Girl Talk, a mash-up musician topping the charts with his sample-based songs, is the film’s protagonist. Watching his process for creating music, it seems impossible that anyone could claim what he is doing qualifies as copyright infringement. Other interviewees include Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, Brazil’s former-Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and pop culture critic Cory Doctorow. Each speaker brings a different, relevant and intriguing argument to the table – most of which are difficult to dispute.

Gaylor argues the past is trying to control the future, restricting any and all new developments. He emphasizes his point by also discussing the constraints placed on medical research by the profusion of patents. A scientist could be on the brink of a major discovery – like the cure for cancer – but have to turn back because someone else owns the patent to a major component of his treatment.

The documentary is fuelled by an awesome, and illegal, soundtrack overlaid by credible and convincing arguments. It’s predominately one-sided, but Metallica, the recording industry and the FBI have already had their say.

RiP has received a limited theatrical release and is a feature of the week at the National Film Board of Canada.

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