We Need to Own Our Own Culture

One of the more interesting debates currently raging on in the Piracy vs. The Recording Industry saga is the discussion of content and ideas as property.

Some groups of people argue that all media should be free, and distributed all over the world-wide-web for any individual to peruse. Other groups argue that even though digital media itself is an intangible concept that cannot be stolen necessarily, a digital file represents intellectual property to the fullest, and those that cut into their profits should still be treated as thieves.

To a degree, both groups bring up interesting points about what it means to “own” content. I’m not sure that it really matters either way, and here’s why.

At the end of the day, those that pirate content are only consuming the content that Big Media wants them to consume. It doesn’t matter what the price of content is necessarily… as long as you’re consuming it, you could argue that you’re still buying into Big Media’s idea of what content should be. You are getting behind and supporting the artists that they want you to support, because ultimately those artists are the ones lining their pockets. It becomes harder for individual artists to affect culture when the big names in media have their pawns propped up on a pedestal. You could make the argument that the individual ripples of independent creativity barely even make a cultural ripple in comparison to the tidal wave that is the music, multimedia, and film industries.

Lawrence Lessig did a great TED talk a while back about the significance and differences between Read/Write Culture and Read-Only culture. In a Read/Write Culture, we’re constantly re-evaluating existing content and finding new ways to reinterpret it.

The documentary series Everything is a Remix takes it a step further by suggesting that this constant re-invention is how culture sustains itself and grows. Without the amount of remixing we already do, culture rapidly loses any sort of relevence at all. You could argue that while there are very few truly original ideas, there are many original interpretations in how an old idea can be executed. To me, that strikes me as the real value of cultural growth. We could even boil it down to the following tenet:

Cultural growth is reinterpretation.

The problem, though, is that Big Content wants to maintain its position by having a stranglehold on creativity by leveraging IP laws. This is a game that I don’t think any individual can personally win against the machine, so why buy into it?

It seems there’s a growing necessity for an alternative community that serves up cultural templates to work from. We need to recycle and recreate work that is conceptually free for everyone to own. It’s imperative that we take back our own culture and establish something for ourselves. Imagine having story universes that could easily be extended by a community of people, with characters that could be re-used without repercussions of Intellectual Property infringements. Imagine a way to collaborate with other artists to present new ideas and perspectives on everything from painted art to comics, film to literature, and music to modify and extend. 

We already have that. It’s the Creative Commons. It exists to empower remix culture and the free exchange of these abstract ideas of content. We need to investigate the community more, explore it, if you will.

Underneath the sea of content creators in this community, there are quite a few gems that need to be shared with people. This movement is gaining more traction than anyone would realize, but mainstream culture doesn’t pay attention to independent entities that hold the rights to their own creations.We need to find a way to actively take remix culture and everything that it stands for to mainstream culture.

View it as an academic exercise of principles. In order to truly take a stand against the media giants, we have to be actively promoting content that could rival that of any corporate-produced placebo product. This culture focuses on making what we make and sharing it because we love it. We’re enticed by the very act of doing it.

And I intend to do exactly that. I’m going to launch an initiative to bring the best Creative Commons and remix culture has to offer, and bring it to the outside community that wouldn’t otherwise know about it. I’m proud to announce my upcoming new website, and DeadSuperHero, Unc. project:

Introducing MixxZine

MixxZine.com is going to be a blog that focuses entirely on Remix culture all throughout the creative commons community. We hand-pick our most favorite Creative Commons content, whether it’s literature, music, art, or film. In that same respect, we’ll share reviews and tutorials on using Free Software to create content yourself and contribute back. We want to get out there and showcase just how awesome the community can be.

I plan on launching in roughly a week.