Mashed up

Once again we delve into the murky waters of copyright and integrating other peoples ideas into our classroom teaching, an area I have always struggled with, see my earlier blog Easier to keep your head in the sand for some thoughts on this. Remix culture to me is teaching, we are constantly taking ideas from others and changing them to suit our subjects, our teaching methods and our students.  It is a big part of what we do already.

My favorite all time remix- The Grey Album, by Danger Mouse this CD mixed Jay-Zs Black Album vocals with samples from the Beetles White Album, genius. For the record both Jay-Z and McCartney were fine with the project, EMI no so. Ironically I was going to use the album cover to support this blog post, instead I found it was copy written.

Lawrence Lessig (who after some simple internet search’s turns out to be the remix guru) blog post The “Imbecile” and “Moron” Responds discusses the “fair use” concept within copyright law, the definition still seems vague to me, I get the impression there is a fair bit of grey area around the subject and hence the large numbers of conflicting views.   In Lawrence’s opinion the “fair use” argument is perfectly acceptable for the use of other peoples material, provided the person taking the material uses “it in the context of remix creativity, consistent with the requirements of remix creativity, meaning consistent with the requirement that the use be fair use.”  I doubt many traditional recording artists, writers and more importantly record companies and publishing houses would agree with his premise on this.

My Modern World History classes are studying a unit on Imperialism throughout the 19th and 20th century.  Normally I show clips from the Gandhi film (the whole movie is on youtube if you have a spare 3 hours) to show examples of passive resistance and some of Gandhi’s speech’s, however after reading some of the strategies outlined in Remixing as a Classroom Strategy  I had the idea that it would be good to clip up the sections I normally show (using i- Movie) and remove the soundtrack.  Students in groups would then be required to provide their own voice-overs, either as a speech or a simple explanation of what is happening in the clip.  This way the students would be required to infer which aspect of the decolonization process the film is showing.  If they miss the point of the original clip? Who cares, as long as what they are saying can be supported by evidence and fits in to context then the task will be meaningful.  Much the same as the ideas put forward by Josh Karp in Remixing as a Classroom Strategy where he quotes another classroom teacher saying  “with remixing, students and writers can take that story line as a jumping off point to jumble the characters, ideas and other components of a romance. “It’s what you do with it,” Johnson says. “That’s what becomes genius.”

Easier to keep your head in the sand

Read the credits on The Verves 1997 smash hit Bitter Sweet Symphony and you will not find Richard Archcroft’s name, instead the credits read Jagger and Richards.  The Verve ‘borrowed’ a small string piece from an instrumental version of The Stones “The Last Time”.  The millions of dollars that that song made was split 50:50.  50% for Mick and 50% for Keith.  The irony here is that there is no doubt The Stone’s would have ripped that intro from some poorly represented soul band from the 40’s or 50’s.  This point is highlighted in Everything is a remix created by Kirby Ferguson a great clip showing the relationship between the evolution of life on our planet and the evolution of the idea.

Is it true there are no truly new original ideas and we simply build on previous experiences?

In his outstanding book “The Selfish Gene” evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’ in order to describe a cultural version of a gene.  Without the mixing of genes over millions of years we would not have the complexity of life we now see on earth, Ferguson makes the argument that as ideas are no longer free, due to copyright laws and intellectual property rights we inhibit the potential growth and mutilation of memes which could slow cultural development and human progress.   An interesting thought at a time where so many people world wide choose to ignore the pervious strong hold massive cooperation’s had over intellectual property.

Having read Copyright questions and answers about iTunes, Podcasts, and Fair Use it is clear the issues around the use of clips, podcast etc within the classroom and schools is incredibly complex and I would say in most cases teachers and admin choose to leave their heads well in the sand on the issue rather than face it head on.  As an educator in Asia these complex issues are made even more difficult to deal with when our students are constantly bombarded with images and opportunities to breach copyright laws.  This is highlighted in Laura Faulk’s blog Teaching Copyright Laws in Asia.

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Our obligation as teachers is to model appropriate behavior on this issue and give credit where credit is due.






For the record Ashcroft knew he would not see a cent for his masterpiece before he released it, however rather than redoing the intro and putting out a substandard recording he chose to go ahead with the Stone’s sample and later said it was the best song The Rolling Stones had released in 20 years.