Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Re-Mixing Content

One of the most effective infomercials was the sham-wow sales pitch, with the "are ya following me camera guy" line. Then, the pitchman goes up in flames with press about an incident where the police get involved. So much for his career, right?

Enter the slap-chop product and a new infomercial (here). No doubt, they got this guy for a song, because he was trying to revive his career, and with slap chop the slap chop remix, he has done just that. So the question is - why are we discussing this on Photo Business News?

What originally happened was the copyrighted "slap chop" commercial was re-mixed. From everything I can find, it was remixed without the copyright owners' permission. However, in this case, the re-mix became so popular, the the copyright owner of the commercial decided to make it an official commercial and use it to sell the product (as reported here). You really can't appreciate the talent that went into the remix, until you see the original content he had to work with, (here). Now, here is the mesmerizing result:

More and more, photographers are rightfully standing up for the unauthorized use of their images. However, as copyright evolves, it may be that people re-mix your photography without your permission, and then you like the result even more. Who then owns that copyright? Who then profits from that derivative work?

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Anonymous said...

As to book writing, I have heard Cory Doctorow say that he fears obscurity more than he fears copyright infringement. I would think that the same goes for many as-yet-anonymous photographers. One man's copyright infringement is another man's free promotion! It all comes down to what you need most. And to attribution of course.

Sascha said...

@ Anonymous

It's naive to think that soemone who steals your pictures is helping you to getknown to people who will pay you.

If you were a car dealer would you thank people who steal your cars, because if the drive around with them more people see the cars in the street and will want to buy one?

MK @ Photography Business Blog said...

Thanks for this important, relevant and timely post. Joe Decker wrote a nice article about US Copyright Law and Small Photographers over at Photocrati in March. He highlighted the difficulties that many a photographers face in today's electronic world.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sacha,
"If you were a car dealer would you thank people who steal your cars?"

See? I just copied part of your statement, and thereby brought it to people's attention once again. I did not obtain your permission. Hey, I might even be violating some copyright that you feel entitled to (fair use be damned). Well, here's some news for you: People will now be more compelled to read your comment in full, which seems to be exactly what you want, or why else would you place it here?

Please refrain from comparing physical and scarce objects (cars) to infinite abstract goods like intellectual property rights. Please tell me what YOU have LOST by me copying you whilst giving you proper credit. Or better still: tell me what the slap/chop people have lost by getting a better promotional tool FOR FREE.

Choosing a better analogy is left as an exercise to the reader.

Jim Goldstein said...

Given the humorous remix I think many would argue this would fall under Fair Use protection. Dodging the Fair Use debate I'd bring the question of copyright back to its essence as stated in the Constitution:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

"Progress" is interpretive and in this day and age I think you could make an argument to replace "progress" with "value". Progress is being made because value is added due to enhanced interest in the advertisement. The advertisement was put out there not for an art installation or to further a patent, but to sell a product. The nature of advertising is to get as many eyeballs as possible to see a message for the sake of brand identity and/or sales.

If an original video posting on YouTube is seen 2 million times and 1 remix (1 of many) is seen another 4 million then by definition progress and thus value is made. Value of course is relative but as seen through the narrow lens of views... it is progress.

I'd argue that the concept of ownership is irrelevant. The branding and depiction of the product is in tact. What has changed is the delivery. The remix has lubricated the expanded distribution of the message.

Lets say DJ Steve Porter decides to sell singles of the song. Again I think it comes back to Fair Use and again if you're the maker of Slap Chop are you going to gain greater value from a lawsuit to claim ownership or embrace the expanded distribution of your message?

I'd think this is a marketing managers dream (while simultaneously being an inflexible corporate lawyers nightmare). It all comes down on which side of the fence you fall.

Would I want someone doing this with my unwatermarked photographs? No. Would I see the potential value of 4 million people seeing my branded photography or video in a remix. I think I likely would after the shock wore off.

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