This week’s readings introduced me to a broader meaning (than what I am used to) of the term “remix”. I used to think that a remix was an altered copy of a song that you were likely to find as a bonus track on an album or single. By typing “Blue Monday” into YouTube, you can see that this New Order song has been remixed a multitude of times. However, the term remix isn’t limited to only songs, it can be applied to any medium that’s been altered. An image of the Mona Lisa that’s been photoshopped to give Mona a pair of sunglasses, for example, is a remix. According to one definition I came across, even someones’s adaptation of their favourite cocktail can be referred to as a remix! (EDIT: I just found the 1919 remix of the Mona Lisa by Marcel Duchamp. Image below.)

Nowadays, with the emergence of YouTube, we are seeing more and more fan-made video clip remixes. This here is a video clip remix of “Lisztomania” by the band Phoenix. (I just want to add here that video clip remixes are sometimes referred to as mashups.)

I now want to analyse mashups through the lens of copyright. Copyright law states that a derivative work can find protection under the fair use doctrine so long as it’s transformative in nature. Mashups/video clip remixes are indeed derivative works but are they transformative in their entirety? Let’s go back to song remixes for a moment. Song remixes are comprised of a single medium, music, and for this type of remix to find cover under fair use, that medium must be transformed. A mashup, on the other hand, is a compilation of video and music. Indeed, many of the mashups I’ve seen do a very good job of transforming the video component… and that’s where it stops. What about the music component? Shouldn’t it be transformed too? Is a multimedia remix violating copyright if all the media that comprise it aren’t being transformed?


2 thoughts on “Remixed

  1. Jamie,

    I agree that it can be very difficult to draw the line sometimes. Your question about only one part of the medium being changed is, I think, quite valid. For me, I often lean more on the fair use pillar of profit potential than transformation. For example, if I use the logos from the universities I have attended on a job search site, should I seek permission? Probably not as, if anything, I am promoting and supporting them. I think that must be the way contemporary musicians feel for it to be allowed so prevalently. Or maybe I am just making myself feel better.

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