by Ana Soares

It’s tough to be an artist in the era of copyright, so knowing that organizations like Creative Commons are out there, looking out for your right to be creative, can be at least reassuring.

Whether you’re an independent or mainstream filmmaker, a musician or a scientist, a writer or an ayahuasca appreciator – copyright laws concern you. If your job or hobby involves being creative and producing something unique out of whatever influences you, you’ve most likely had to stop to think and worry about whether you’ve been infringing the law of whatever country you’re working in.

That’s where Creative Commons comes in. Created in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, the non-profit organization’s mission is to “increase sharing and improve collaboration” amongst people who simply want to create, free(er) of legislative limitations. Their argument, which to me sounds more than reasonable, is that the era of being a mere consumer is over. In the 21st century, most of the time we act as the subjects of media rather than subjects to media. As an artist, or at the very least as a person interested in art (enough to be reading this article), I’m guessing you identify yourself much better with the latter than the former category.

RiP! A Remix Manifesto investigates the issue mainly in the United States. Very cleverly structured, the documentary tells the story of the development of copyright and “intellectual property” laws, all within the context of America. The director, Brett Gaylor, uses Brazil as the counter-example: a country that refuses to conform to the U.S.’s over-controlling patent policies (which, I must note, did a bit of good to my Brazilian ego). I won’t tell you much more about it, other than 1) you must watch it and 2) the film is available for all to view on Vimeo and other wesbites, and its producers encourage us all to contribute by editing and remixing it according to wish. There’s no final cut – to each its own.

If you, like me, Brett Gaylor and Lawrence Lessig, feel that it is wrong to criminalize someone for creating art in the 21st century, and believe that in order for culture to evolve “the control of the past must be limited”, then RiP! A Remix Manifesto and Creative Commons were made for you. They’re great places to start thinking critically about where your influence comes from, and about how where they can lead you (and your work) is very much dependent upon your government’s and favorite artists’ good will.

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