The Copyright-Copyleft Mashup Reflection and Analysis


Reflection & Analysis detailed below..

Mashup Reflection

After studying previously made mashups provided in Jonathan McIntosh’s article of popular political videos, I decided to try my hand at creating a thought-provoking and innovative mashup that worked as my own personal meta-commentary on the issues within copyright and remix. Although I had a minor background in editing video, I have never done anything this complex with video editing. By using others’ content and a lot of it, I was, in many ways, doing exactly what those in my mashup who were re-creating popular dances in front of their TVs and computers: following the lead of others by putting my own personal stamp on my actions for a purpose. As the Numa Numa and Soulja Boy dancers are recording and posting their videos to entertain and to be a part of something, I wanted to make a strategic point by bringing the issue of copyleft and remixing to the forefront by using previously created videos and features without concern of genre or purpose.

As I wrote in my proposal, I was one to shy away from discussing the battle of copyright and where remixing lies within the rhetorical argument that “stealing equals theft” because it was an issue with too many opinions and not enough concrete answers to satisfy me. Instead of writing a traditional essay or piece about what I and others thought of remixing, I decided to embrace the action and remix clips by reversing, inversing, mirroring, and repeating images to drive my point home, to get people talking about this term “copyleft”, which is defined as making creative work freely available to be modified, according to the GNU project.

I think it is very difficult to replace “images” for “words” and in this digital video, I had to learn how to not rely on the alphabetic word to push my purpose along. Along the way, my message may become unclear (at times) because there is no single narrative or thesis my reader can refer back to, like one would have when they are relying on words, but I think that is what makes mashups popular, that while the creator may have a strong stance on their topic, it is up to the user to decide what it all means, what they take away from the video and how they should feel about what they just watched.

By creating this mashup and having creative control over what clips went into the final product is very difficult because there is just simply so much content all over the web, from YouTube to Twitter to Facebook that is a representation of copyright and remixing. The more remixes I placed in this mashup, the stronger my message is being understood by anyone who chooses to watch and dissect the choices I made and so forth (for example, I included parodies, recreations and other mashups throughout the video, along with a song, Kellee Maize’s “Future (Remix)” that worked as my backing track found on Jamendo, a royalty free music website). When you are working in digital video for a purpose of getting a message across and by making it an individualistic and unique piece, I believe one has to make tough decisions within the confines of the editing process (in regards to mashups) because while we can’t rely too heavily on narratives, we can’t just find random clips and put them in our videos: every (clip) in a mashup has a purpose.

I was fortunate to embrace my copyright vs. copyleft and remixing topic and in many ways, I believe my mashup works as well as the popular ones that are created for advocacy and commentary reasons (see “Vote Different” and “Imagine This” as reviewed by Richard Edwards and Chuck Tryon). So that I could physically put this mashup together, I had to re-watch mashups to watch how an artist would set the tone within the first 20-30 seconds and learned not to rely too heavily on one clip early on in the creative process. By learning from others, I was re-enforcing my mashup message, and accepting that I was remixing along with the hundreds of thousands that create their own videos and post them on the web.

If I were writing a traditional essay/piece on any given topic and used others’ words (with the proper citation and credit) as heavily as I did with a mash up, I have to wonder if my message would be any different from those before me. Perhaps so, but that isn’t the way we are taught to write. We are taught to come up with our own styles and learn not to borrow others’ “words” too heavily, but writers cannot help by be inspired by previously read authors or learning from the instructors before them. The beauty of working with visuals is that each image can represent a different idea for an individual, and that is what I hope that I accomplished with this mashup. It is not about whether remixing is wrong or right, but it is to get people talking about the topic, and learn to be unafraid to voice an opinion about a topic, no matter how many popular rhetorical claims are out there.

Semiotic Analysis

“The Copyright-Copyleft Mash Up” was my very first attempt at the mash up genre. In this piece, I wanted to explore the issues of copyright by introducing the concept of copy left through remixing. My mash up leaves a lot up for interpretation because there is no critical point to hone in on: I simply wanted to get people thinking about copyright and their honest opinions on remixing and recreating. I used semiotics, the theory of signs, to bring meaning to my piece. Below I will detail specific semiotic insistences found in the mash up and provide an explanation for why I chose those certain moves.

Semiotic Example #1: Intertexuality/Similes/Stereotypes

At 0:52, a blonde woman wearing a fedora hat is placing a bottle of nail polish in her purse at a store. The scene is edited and continues as a group of girls huddled around a cell phone zooms in and captures video of her actions. The filming is a nod to the soon-to-come montage of recreated viral videos that starts at 0:56. For a more nuanced understanding of this clip, strands of intertextuality, the framework of knowledge the creator is working within that viewers can use to identify their understanding of the content, can be found here. The scene comes from the ABC show Nashville (Season 1, Episode 3, a clip actually ripped and edited by me)and in the following episodes the action of uploading this video derails the character, Juliette’s (the lady stealing the nail polish) singing career, much like what happens when others’ use copyrighted material. We can learn to tie that scene into the aforementioned montage of viral videos, which is clips of recreations of popular dances (from the Numa Numa Dance, Gangham Style to the Harlem Shake) that begins at 0:57.

By placing these images next to each other, we are liking one thing to another which is a simile, defined in Sean Hall’s This Means This This Means That as a comparison between two different objects, images or ideas to see things in a new light and make that needed connection. By interspersing images of theft and these popular dance videos, it is as if I am making the link that recreating someone else’s dance moves is like stealing. Through that simile we are choosing to accept or perhaps (through this mash up) begin to reject the stereotype that when downloading music, recreating dances, or posting video similar to others’ before us it is a criminal act (or one may choose to view the clips and say, “Well [stealing a necklace] is a real crime, a bunch of friends posting a video singing and dancing along to their favorite pop song clearly is not.” The popular stereotype is driving a critical part of the mashup. A stereotype is defined as “generalized ideas” about certain popular beliefs, and while the talk may not be factually correct; it is helpful for understanding “popular or unfound beliefs.” (Hall, p. 158) While ideally, I would like those that watch my mash up come with at least a simplistic idea on what issues are bounding copyright and remixing, they do not have to know the specificities in order to fully accept and understand this mashup. I think the remixing of clips and the music does the work for them, but in the chase of bringing forth the stereotypes, I believe the concept of taking others’ ideas = theft needs to be understood in some form.

Semiotic Example #2: Past/Present/Future/Intextuality/Placing

The montage of songs and artists that have been involved in copyright infringement battles represents the visual structure of Past, Present and Future. As Hall writes, timing plays a role in images, by allowing the viewer to “speculate on the past, question the present and predict the future” which is a really important component in the human condition, regardless of setting. (p. 106) I decided to create this montage of music videos/artists of songs involved in copyright issues in reverse chronological order starting at 3:05 (from Robin Thicke’s on-going lawsuit with the family of Marvin Gaye to Led Zeppelin’s past acts of plagiarism) to move away from the basic linear structure and rely on the message from RIP!: A Remix Manifesto that “culture always builds on the past”, taking the placing of these clips, which can allow us to question the decisions made to place things in a certain order, into consideration by tracing the historical roots of copyright. By tapping into the current and the popular (which is a nod to the topic of remixing), I am using the “primacy effect” that allows items listed at the beginning to “have more [of an] impact on our thinking.” (pg. 120) Viewers may be more clued into recent music images and draw on that connection from past to present.

Semiotic Example #3: Intratextuality/Paratext

Last but not least, one of the most important parts of my mashup is my choice of audio track. The song I chose is “Future (Remix)” by female rapper Kellie Maize. I believe the song works as a paratext that surrounds and ultimately supports the purpose of my project. Paratext can “stand outside the main body of work” (pg. 128) and provide commentary, which I believe the song does very well when separated from the clips I chose. Maize’s up-beat track is forward thinking (and sounding), promotes innovation and works as a precursor to future insistences of remixing. The techno-beats throughout the song allows the footage I chose to stand out and make certain statements such as the clips I chose to remix: clips of a DJ scratching the record right on cue with the song (0:19), color-saturating Lars Ulrich and transforming him into a cartoon (0:24) and hesitating repeating motion of the woman wearing a pair of headphones (2:22) which is direct representation of the video.

One can also find intratextuality in the video, provided if they can find Kellie Maize. I decided to take clips from two of her music videos: “Dancing with Lightening” and “Third Eye” that can be found at 3:04 and 4:07, respectively. Intratextuality, makes a secondary reference in a piece that allows for direct awareness, and describes the internal relationship between “different parts of the same work.” As a side note, I also decided to use Maize’s image as the main thumbnail on the YouTube search page.

The decision to include her music and footage of her videos (different parts of her work) refers back to how I ultimately found “Future (Remix)” and became familiar not only Maize’s music, but her artistic and creative choices. Maize uploads all of her music (including four full-length studio albums) on Jamendo, a Creative Commons licensed-website that allows users to legally download music. I think finding her in this mashup ultimately represents her working relationship with pro-copyleft organizations such as Creative Commons and the P2P site FrostWire, which allows for a more direct understanding of the copyright-copyleft debate, and as a bonus, those that follow Maize may be familiar with the message on hand if viewed.

Overall, this mashup took a lot of hard work, dedication and understanding of such a complex topic. Please view the video and feel free to ask questions/leave comments below.


About Christina Maxwell

I’m a young professional journalist with a dual B.A. degree in Radio-TV-Film and Journalism and I am currently working on my M.A. in Writing, specializing in Journalism and New Media Studies (both at Rowan University). Although my advanced degree allows me to have options in the future, for now, my main goal is finding a job in journalism. I am a journalist at heart. First hand knowledge, original reporting and precisive answers are what I strive for when I'm working. For the past two years, I have done freelance reporting with the Gloucester Township Patch, but my goal is to have a sustainable, consistent job in journalism.

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