A suburban teenage girl, a San Francisco DJ and a single mother living in Minnesota may come from different walks of life, but they all hold something in common. All were broadsided by charges related to copyright infringement.
It is with this knowledge that Quebec filmmaker Brett Gaylor set out to create his latest documentary: RiP! A Remix Masterpiece.
“It is not possible to prosecute everyone,” Gaylor explains, noting that more people are registered on peer-2-peer sharing site Napster than voted in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election. “Instead, we are seeing specific people being targeted by these corporations, which is really ridiculous. They are thrown into a lawsuit for allegedly being caught in some illegal activity when really everyone is doing it.”
Gaylor, a self-proclaimed technology geek, believes times are changing and the laws surrounding copyright must adapt.
“The current business model is simply not in step with the times,” Gaylor said. “I have always involved myself in the digital culture and now more than ever before I believe there is a conflict brewing between those who want to share information and those who want to lock up information.”
To show the influence this new information age can have, Gaylor spends a great deal of his film delving into the sub-culture of his favourite artist: Girl Talk. A Pittsburgh-based DJ, Girl Talk samples thousands of tracks from other artists to pull together songs of his own, known as mash-ups.
“I think I big part of it for me is that with remixing you can cram so much meaning into your work,” Gaylor said. He points to an example in the film where clips of George W. Bush are cut together to make it seem like the former U.S. president is singing the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Images of bombs falling on houses and soldiers engaging in firefights accompany the song to create an interesting juxtaposition.
“On the one hand it is really funny; at the same time it is a major critique of the Bush administration and war mongering,” Gaylor said. ”Remixing allows you to create something new that has never been seen before and it can serve as an extremely valuable venting mechanism.”
Gaylor believes the extreme costs behind sampling music do not add up because remix culture strives to give credit to the original artist, similar to citing sources in an academic essay. At the same time, he advocates creating organizations where all royalty funds can be put into one pot and then redistributed to artists — not corporations, which often reap the rewards of successful litigation.
“We need to embrace this media world that we live in, artists should reflect the world around you,” he said.
RiP! A Remix Masterpiece opens Mar. 20 at the Uptown Stage & Screen.