Buzzwords like intellectual property, patents, copyright laws and loss aversion are thrown around often when it comes to sampling and copying, well, anything creative. But what do they all mean and how are they applicable to us? Producer, writer and director Kirby Ferguson tries to explain just that with his "Everything is a Remix" series.
"Everything is a Remix" explores the idea that no idea is original. Ferguson argues that essentially all forms of creativity are just a remix of the last, giving the sweeping example of Led Zeppelin who notoriously borrowed from blues greats like Howlin' Wolf. The fourth installment in the series, "System Failure," explores what Ferguson calls "Social Evolution" through a menagerie of borrowed footage, animations, text and a voiceover.
He defines this concept as being very similar to evolution, but instead of genes, it's memes being "copied, transformed and combined." This cultural development occurs through ideas, behaviors and skills being constantly used and reused. Just like the evolution of beings and species, social evolution is how society not only survives, but thrives.
Obstacles stand in the way of social evolution, though. Ideas have become regarded as property; as something that can be owned. But with ownership, people get territorial.
So what is the hold up? Ideas aren't tangible objects; there is no stopping the reproduction of an idea, right? Wrong. When it comes to creativity, this country has a history wrought with ownership of ideas -- this is intellectual property.
The two original, and according to Ferguseon, crucial and necessary forms of intellectual property protection are patents and copyrights. The Patent Act (instilled in 1790) protects an invention, while the Copyright Act (created nearly 200 years later in 1976) protects an original piece of art of literature.
Though it was through the 1990s and 2000s with a slew of acts and agreements formed through government, corporation and lawyer involvement that corrupted this system of fair and balanced idea sharing. Now, instead of spreading ideas and monetary gain from creativity, the system is bent on spreading lawsuits and the monetary gain from intellectual infringement.
It is in this convoluted system where society stalls, Ferguson says. The ending words of "Everything is a Remix Part 4: System Failure" sums it up perfectly:
The intent was to better the lives of everyone by incentivizing creativity and producing a rich public domain; a shared pool of knowledge open to all... We live in an age with daunting problems. We need the best ideas possible; we need them now, we need them to spread fast... If the meme prospers -- our laws, our norms, our society -- they all transform. That's social evolution and it's not up to governments or corporations or lawyers; it's up to us.
Watch "Everything is a Remix Part 4:"