Everything is a remix
Kirby Ferguson’s series about creativity, Everything is a Remix, concludes with a look at the system of copyright and patent laws and shows why it’s broken. If you haven’t watched the rest of the series, now’s the time. (Watch earlier parts here.)
These are the words with which Ferguson concludes the series:
The belief in intellectual property has grown so dominant it’s pushed the original intent of copyrights and patents out of the public consciousness. But that original purpose is still right there in plain sight. The copyright act of 1790 is entitled “an Act for the encouragement of learning”. The Patent Act is “to promote the progress of useful Arts.”
The exclusive rights these acts introduced were a compromise for a greater purpose. The intent was to better the lives of everyone by incentivizing creativity and producing a rich public domain, a shared pool of knowledge, open to all.
But exclusive rights themselves came to be considered the point, so they were strengthened and expanded. And the result hasn’t been more progress or more learning, it’s been more squabbling and more abuse.
We live in an age with daunting problems. We need the best ideas possible, we need them now, we need them to spread fast. The common good is a meme that was overwhelmed by intellectual property. It needs to spread again. If the meme prospers, our laws, our norms, our society, they all transform.
That’s social evolution and it’s not up to governments or corporations or lawyers… it’s up to us.
Hopefully, the series will help spark a revolution in the way people think of creativity and such things as copyright law and intellectual property. However, at the moment I want to ask something unrelated to any of these issues. The person who reads the above words in the film is Kirby Ferguson himself. He didn’t hire a “professional voice artist” or celebrity to do the narration. He did it himself, and the series is better for it because by using his normal speaking voice he sounds a zillion times more sincere than any so-called professional narrator could ever sound. Why can’t film, TV, and radio narrators use their normal voice? Why do they always have to sound like they went to a voice training school for robots? Can you imagine being married to someone who spoke to you at breakfast or dinner like a radio DJ, or a CNN or BBC anchor? Ferguson shows that you don’t have to change the way you speak to sound intelligent or authoritative as a narrator. In fact, he sounds more intelligent and authoritative than most of them.