Remix Culture

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Remix Culture


"Remix culture describes the way in which youth culture today more visibly orients itself around creating media by extracting component pieces from other people's media creations, then connecting them together to form something new. In the video game world this phenomena is more specifically termed 'modding.' In this process, amateur fans take a professional commercial game title and then modify it in creative ways that the original designers may not have considered." (


Remix culture is also employed by Lawrence Lessig to describe a society which allows and encourages derivative works. Such a culture would be, by default, permissive of efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holders. Lessig presents this as a desirable ideal and argues, among other things, that the health, progress, and wealth creation of a culture is fundamentally tied to this participatory remix process.

Sampling in musicmaking is a prime example of reuse, and hip-hop culture's implicit acceptance of the practice makes it a remix culture.

This term is often contrasted with permission culture or Rights Clearance Culture.

Originally from the wikipedia and copied from

See also


"Nine common types of re-appropriation practices that use copyrighted material:

  • Parody and satire: Copyrighted material used in spoofing of popular mass media, celebrities or politicians (Baby Got Book)
  • Negative or critical commentary: Copyrighted material used to communicate a negative message (Metallica Sucks)
  • Positive commentary: Copyrighted material used to communicate a positive message (Steve Irwin Fan Tribute)
  • Quoting to trigger discussion: Copyrighted material used to highlight an issue and prompt public awareness, discourse (Abstinence PSA on
  • Illustration or example: Copyrighted material used to support a new idea with pictures and sound (Evolution of Dance)
  • Incidental use: Copyrighted material captured as part of capturing something else (Prisoners Dance to Thriller)
  • Personal reportage/diaries: Copyrighted material incorporated into the chronicling of a personal experience (Me on stage with U2... AGAIN!!!)
  • Archiving of vulnerable or revealing materials: Copyrighted material that might have a short life on mainstream media due to controversy (Stephen Colbert's Speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner)
  • Pastiche or collage: Several copyrighted materials incorporated together into a new creation, or in other cases, an imitation of sorts of copyrighted work (Apple Commercial)"


Source: Report: Recut, Reframe, Recycle. Center for Social Media.


Appropriation and Annotation Literacy

Ryan Shaw on how literacy is changing.


"The latest issue of Harper's features an excellent roundtable discussion on how video games might be used to teach writing. Though most of it will be familiar to anyone who has followed recent debates about "serious games," it is worth reading. Among the discussants, Raph Koster stood out as particularly insighful, and his comments about new forms of literacy really struck home:

What we mean by literacy is changing. If you look at books like The Da Vinci Code, a lot of what it does is appropriation–of a painting, or a historical text–and annotation, with this whole cottage industry of providing the footnotes: the TV specials, the books. … Appropriation and annotation are becoming our new forms of literacy.Appropriation and annotation (or, to use the popular vernacular, remix and tagging) have been at the center of my interests for a while now, but it's nice to see them being discussed in a high-profile forum like Harper's.

Koster's comments echo the views of my friend Dan Perkel, who has been investigating "copy and paste literacy" on MySpace. Many people focus on the "remix culture" of appropriation and annotation as if it is something new–but these practices have been around since the dawn of culture. What is new, as Koster and Dan indicate, is the general rise in people's ability to recognize and engage in these practices: their literacy.

The discussion in Harper's ends with a kind of lament that a population highly literate in appropriation and annotation will squeeze out the "great artist" by flooding our culture with lesser-quality niche productions. I agree with that conclusion but not the explanation. The era of the great artist will come to an end, not because of overcrowded cultural markets, but because a literate population will recognize appropriation and annotation at the heart of all creative production, and it will reject the myths of the solitary genius and the original creative act that have dominated for the last few centuries. The great artist will disappear, but there will continue to be great art." (


Lev Manovich on Remixing and Remixability at

The dramatic increase in quantity of information greatly speeded up by Internet has been accompanied by another fundamental development. Imagine water running down a mountain. If the quantity of water keeps continuously increasing, it will find numerous new paths and these paths will keep getting wider. Something similar is happening as the amount of information keeps growing - except these paths are also all connected to each other and they go in all directions; up, down, sideways. Here are some of these new paths which facilitate movement of information between people, listed in no particular order: SMS, forward and redirect function in email clients, mailing lists, Web links, RSS, blogs, social bookmarking, tagging, publishing (as in publishing one’s playlist on a web site), peer-to-peer networks, Web services, Firewire, Bluetooth. These paths stimulate people to draw information from all kinds of sources into their own space, remix and make it available to others, as well as to collaborate or at least play on a common information platform (Wikipedia, Flickr). Barb Dybwad introduces a nice term “collaborative remixability’” to talk about this process: “I think the most interesting aspects of Web 2.0 are new tools that explore the continuum between the personal and the social, and tools that are endowed with a certain flexibility and modularity which enables collaborative remixability — a transformative process in which the information and media we’ve organized and shared can be recombined and built on to create new forms, concepts, ideas, mashups and services.”

If a traditional twentieth century model of cultural communication described movement of information in one direction from a source to a receiver, now the reception point is just a temporary station on information’s path. If we compare information or media object with a train, then each receiver can be compared to a train station. Information arrives, gets remixed with other information, and then the new package travels to other destination where the process is repeated.

We can find precedents for this “remixability” – for instance in modern electronic music where remix has become the key method since the 1980s. More generally, most human cultures developed by borrowing and reworking forms and styles from other cultures; the resulting “remixes” were to be incorporated into other cultures. Ancient Rome remixed Ancient Greece; Renaissance remixed antiquity; nineteenth century European architecture remixed many historical periods including the Renaissance; and today graphic and fashion designers remix together numerous historical and local cultural forms, from Japanese Manga to traditional Indian clothing. At first glance it may seem that this traditional cultural remixability is quite different from “vernacular” remixability made possible by the computer-based techniques described above. Clearly, a professional designer working on a poster or a professional musician working on a new mix is different from somebody who is writing a blog entry or publishing her bookmarks.

But this is a wrong view. The two kinds of remixability are part of the same continuum. For the designer and musician (to continue with the sample example) are equally affected by the same computer technologies. Design software and music composition software make the technical operation of remixing very easy; the Internet greatly increases the ease of locating and reusing material from other periods, artists, designers, and so on. Even more importantly, since every company and freelance professionals in all cultural fields, from motion graphics to architecture to fine art, publish documentation of their projects on their Web sites, everybody can keep up with what everybody else is doing. Therefore, although the speed with which a new original architectural solution starts showing up in projects of other architects and architectural students is much slower than the speed with which an interesting blog entry gets referenced in other blogs, the difference is quantitative than qualitative. Similarly, when H&M or Gap can “reverse engineer” the latest fashion collection by a high-end design label in only a few weeks, this is part of the same new logic of speeded up cultural remixability enabled by computers. In short, a person simply copying parts of a message into the new email she is writing, and the largest media and consumer company recycling designs of other companies are doing the same thing – they practice remixability." (

Read the related entry on Modularity

More Information

Free Culture UK on the Remix Commons

See the Remix Culture Potpourri video, for examples.


Compiled by Valentin Spirik:

  1. (18.06.07) Video Editing 2.0: 8 Ways to Remix Online Videos (
  2. (13.04.07)Collaborative Film-Making: The Basement Tapes And The New Wave Of Online Movie Mash-Ups (
  3. (27.09.06) Remix Hollywood movies ... (
  4. (30.08.06) Geek to Live: 6 ways to find reusable media (Creative Commons search and more -
  5. (08.2005) We Are the Web (

Technical Resource List

Compiled by Valentin Spirik:

Very popular with musicians and DJs is ccMixter "This is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons, where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want." Highly recommended!

The Freesound Project is "a collaborative database of Creative Commons licensed sounds. Freesound focusses only on sound, not songs. This is what sets freesound apart from other splendid libraries like ccMixter."

sCrAmBlEd?HaCkZ! (Scrambledhacks) is "a Realtime-Mind-Music-Video-Re-De-Construction-Machine". The author does a very good job of describing this truly revolutionary project in this introduction video (YouTube video via Videobomb). On his website the author announces that "the whole package will be released under the GNU GPL as soon as I find time to clean up that mess / comment the code / document it and find a way to make it easily installable. Thanks for your patience."

For online video remix sites and projects (like eyespot see the online articles Video Editing, Publishing And Remixing Online Is Here (, 06.04.06) and Ten video sharing services compared (, 07.04.06).

Remix Archives

Compiled by Valentin Spirik:

UbuWeb "is a completely independent resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts. All materials on UbuWeb are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights belong to the author(s)." From their FAQ: "What is your policy concerning posting copyrighted material?" "If it's out of print, we feel it's fair game. Or if something is in print, yet absurdly priced or insanely hard to procure, we'll take a chance on it. But if it's in print and available to all, we won't touch it." "Microradio, Media Collage and more" is "still a work in progress", good starting point is the Media Collage Index that also links to similar projects like Illegal Art

Remix.Kwed.Org is "the definite guide to C64 remakes" featuring user submitted Commodore 64 remixes. The "small print" states that "all files provided for download on this server are assumed to be freely distributable." A related project is The C64 Take-away podcast

OverClocked ReMix is the "Unofficial Game Music Arrangement Community". From their FAQ: "Isn't this music copyrighted?" "Yes, the original works which OverClocked ReMixes are based off of are copyrighted. We are not out to infringe on the copyright owner's rights by making money off of their content. ReMixes are not sold, and ad banners on this site go only to pay for the bandwidth / hosting that it requires. Thus far, there have been no complaints."

AmigaRemix is "The place for Amiga Game- and Demo-music Remixes!" Note on their website: "All files provided for download on this site are assumed to be freely distributable. In the event that a file here is not freely distributable, please contact the site maintainer for immediate file removal. By downloading any files here you acknowledge that you will not hold the webmaster or our host liable for any damages."

OverLooked ReMiX "is dedicated to ridiculous interpretations of video game music and video game culture. Its primary focus is song rearrangements (ReMiXeS) in .mp3 format. Anyone is welcome to create an account and submit songs to the site. Our mission is to entertain, heckle, annoy and insult video game fans. Please enjoy."


Recommendations by James Boyle:

"Musical borrowing is the subject of the next “graphic novel”—which is to say comic book—produced by me, Keith Aoki, and Jennifer Jenkins: Theft!: A History of Music (Durham, N.C.: Center for the Study of the Public Domain, forthcoming 2009). Our earlier effort to make intellectual property accessible to film makers and mashup artists can be found in Bound By Law (Durham, N.C.: Center for the Study of the Public Domain, 2006), available in full at An expanded edition of Bound By Law will be published in the Fall of 2008 by Duke University Press. However, neither graphic novel can provide a sense of the scholarly literature in music, musicology, law, and biography that enabled me to write this chapter.

Musical History

The indispensable guide to music history is J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, 7th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006). For those who have access through a university or library the Grove Music database is the single most comprehensive computer-aided source: Grove Music Online, A fascinating book by Frederic Scherer, Quarter Notes and Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004), explores different incentive systems—such as patronage or markets enabled by intellectual property rights—and their respective effect on musical aesthetics and musical production. Scherer is one of the foremost contemporary economists of innovation. To have him writing about the practices of court composers and manuscript publishers is completely fascinating. At the end of the day, he diplomatically refuses to say whether patronage or market mechanisms produced “better” music but the careful reader will pick up indications of which way he leans.

Musical Borrowing

There is a vast scholarly literature on musical borrowing—indeed the discipline of musicology takes the study of borrowing, in its largest sense, as one of its main organizing themes. Beyond a personal tour provided by Professor Anthony Kelley of Duke University, I found a number of books particularly useful. Burkholder’s History (J. Peter Burkholder, Donald J. Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, 7th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006)) is full of examples of borrowing and influence—whether of style, notation, musical conventions, or melody itself. But it is Burkholder’s book on Charles Ives—that fertile early-twentieth-century borrower—that was most influential: J. Peter Burkholder, All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995). Ives’s own thoughts on his mashup of prior American musical forms can be found in Charles Ives, Memos, ed. John Kirkpatrick (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), 10–25. David Metzer’s Quotation and Cultural Meaning in Twentieth-Century Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), throws light on the way that quotations or borrowings came to have a particular cultural meaning in different musical traditions. Honey Meconi’s collection Early Musical Borrowing, ed. Honey Meconi (New York: Routledge, 2004), discusses—among many other things—the issue of borrowing between the secular and religious musical traditions, something that helped me work through that issue in this chapter. Finally, “Musical Borrowing: An Annotated Bibliography” ( provides a searchable database of articles about musical borrowing.

Music and Copyright Law

I was particularly influenced by two books and two articles. The books are Kembrew McLeod, Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership and Intellectual Property Law (New York: Peter Lang, 2001), and Siva Vaidhyanathan, Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity (New York: New York University Press, 2001). McLeod and Vaidhyanathan are the authors who sounded the alarm about the cultural and aesthetic effects of the heavy-handed legal regulation of musical borrowing. Together with the work of Larry Lessig (particularly his writing on the “permissions culture”) Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Random House, 2001), their scholarship has defined the field.

The two articles that influenced me the most focus more specifically on the details of the evolution of music on the one hand and music copyright on the other. Both of them are by Michael Carroll: “The Struggle for Music Copyright,” Florida Law Review 57 (2005): 907–961, and “Whose Music Is It Anyway?: How We Came to View Musical Expression as a Form of Property,” University of Cincinnati Law Review 72 (2004): 1405–1496. But these two pieces by no means exhaust the literature. Olufunmilayo Arewa has written memorably on copyright and musical borrowing in “Copyright on Catfish Row: Musical Borrowing, Porgy & Bess and Unfair Use,” Rutgers Law Journal 37 (2006): 277–353, and “From J. C. Bach to Hip Hop: Musical Borrowing, Copyright and Cultural Context,” North Carolina Law Review 84 (2006): 547–645. I also recommend K. J. Greene, “Copyright, Culture & Black Music: A Legacy of Unequal Protection,” Hastings Communications & Entertainment Law Journal 21 (1999): 339–392. There is much, much more. Finally, Joanna Demers’s recent book Steal This Music: How Intellectual Property Law Affects Musical Creativity (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006), provides a more comprehensive coverage than I can hope to in a single chapter.

Beyond the scholarly literature, two websites allow you to experiment with these issues online. The History of Sampling created by Jesse Kriss,, allows you to explore visually exactly which hip-hop samplers borrowed from which older songs and to trace the process backwards or forwards. Extremely cool. The Copyright Infringement Project, sponsored by the UCLA Intellectual Property Project and Columbia Law School,, is an extremely useful educational site that gives examples of cases alleging musical copyright infringement, including the relevant sound files. The older version of this project confusingly referred to these cases as “plagiarism” cases—something that judges themselves also frequently do. Plagiarism is the moral, academic, or professional sin of taking ideas, facts or expression and passing them off as your own. If I take the central arguments from your book and completely reword them, or if I present a series of facts you uncovered as an historian and include them in my own book without attribution, you may accuse me of plagiarism, though not of copyright infringement. If I take the words of Shakespeare or Dickens and pass them off as my own, I am committing plagiarism but certainly not copyright infringement, for even under today’s rules those works have long since entered the public domain. If I credit T. S. Eliot but then proceed to reprint the entire of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” without the permission of the copyright holders, I am committing copyright infringement, but certainly not plagiarism. At best, plagiarism and copyright infringement overlap to some extent, but each regulates large areas about which the other is indifferent. We sap the strength of both norm systems by confusing them. The new incarnation of the project, at UCLA, has removed the word “plagiarism” from its title.

The People and the Music

A brief biography of Will Lamartine Thompson can be found in C. B. Galbreath, “Song Writers of Ohio (Will Lamartine Thompson),” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 14 (January, 1905): 291–312. Since the copyright has expired you can read it in full, and see the picture of Thompson, at,M1.

The best book on Clara Ward is Willa Ward-Royster, Toni Rose, and Horace Clarance Boyer, How I Got Over: Clara Ward and the World Famous Ward Singers (Philadelphia, Penn.: Temple University Press, 1997).

The best biography of Ray Charles is Michael Lydon, Ray Charles: Man and Music (New York: Routledge, 2004). Charles’s autobiography is also a fascinating read. Ray Charles and David Ritz, Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story (Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 1992). Charles’s website, which contains useful biographical and discographical information, is at There is much more, of course, but these resources provide a good starting place.

There are several hagiographic biographies of Mr. West, but none worth reading. Those who have not already been inundated with information through the popular press could do worse than to start with his rather breathless Wikipedia entry

The main source of information on The Legendary K.O.—a name they now use intermittently—is their website is (I am grateful to Mr. Nickerson and Mr. Randle for confirming additional portions of the story by e-mail.) The song “George Bush Doesn’t Like Black People” is no longer available on their website, however an audio version of it is currently available at The Black Lantern’s video can be found at Franklin Lopez’s video can currently be found at Whether any of those sites will be available in a year’s time is hard to tell. Those who plan to listen or view are reminded that the lyrics are ‘explicit.’

The songs by Clara Ward, Ray Charles, and Kanye West are widely available through a variety of commercial outlets, as are several commercial versions of “Jesus is All the World to Me” by Mr. Thompson.

I would recommend The Clara Ward Singers, Meetin’ Tonight (Vanguard Records, 1994), compact disc. It includes a version of “Meetin’ Tonight: This Little Light of Mine” in which the human limits on the ability to sustain a note are broken repeatedly. Any Ray Charles compilation will feature some of the songs discussed here. The most economical is probably Ray Charles, I’ve Got a Woman & Other Hits by Ray Charles (Rhino Flashback Records, 1997), compact disc. It includes “I Got a Woman” and “This Little Girl of Mine.” Kanye West, Late Registration (Roc-a-Fella Records, 2005), compact disc, contains the full version of “Gold Digger.”

Finally, I would love to be able to play you the full version of the Bailey Gospel Singers “I Got a Savior” (B-Side: “Jesus is the Searchlight”) (Columbia Records, 1951), 78 rpm phonograph record. Unfortunately, given the legal uncertainties I am forbidden from doing so, and I know of no licit way—for free or for pay—that you can listen to it, short of traveling to the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts yourself and asking to hear the original 78. Perhaps that simple fact is the most elegant encapsulation of my argument here." (