To Steal or Not to Steal

A couple of months ago I sent my computer in to have it repaired. Not only was it no longer connecting to the internet, but it stopped turning on. I was furious and I made sure I expressed to the repair man that it would be the end of me if he lost any of my photos or my music. “Number one rule, don’t lose my music!” Oh my music. When my computer came back to me a week later I was happy that the computer man had followed my instructions, except for one thing; the program for downloading music had been deleted. This got me thinking about whether I should continue with my deviant ways of downloading music illegally or if I should finally make an iTunes account and purchase the songs I wanted. Then I remembered “RIP: A Remix Manifesto,” the documentary written and directed by Brett Gaylor. The documentary looks into copyright laws and the issues behind making mash-ups, his prime example being the artist Girl Talk. Although the video does look into the legality of downloading music, it more so focuses on artists using material previously made by someone else to make something of their own. On this topic, I side with Brett Gaylor. Girl Talk should be able to mash together the music that their fans so enjoy, without the side thought that they might get arrested.

So what makes Girl Talk such a perfect example for a documentary that discusses using work done by previous artists to make something new? Girl Talk makes original music, but he does so by taking seconds here and seconds there of songs previously released by other artists. He makes entirely new songs out of them, where afterwards they don’t have the same rhythm or beats as they did before. In the documentary, Girl Talk says that he likes being able to do whatever he wants with the “untouchables” and that he can “put Elton John in a headlock” if he feels like it. Well the issue is that he really isn’t allowed to be doing whatever he wants with the songs because there are copyright laws. People own the rights to the songs that he uses and if he were to purchase them (he uses about 21 different songs to create just one Girl Talk song) it would cost around $262, 400.

Brett Gaylor bases the majority of the documentary on the fact that culture builds on the past, and he does so by providing numerous examples. In music, artists are always dipping into the honey pot of artists that came before them. They influence each other, such as Led Zeppelin finding influence from a Muddy Waters song, rock getting influenced by folk music. And then there is Walt Disney; a man who remakes works to make them relevant for the present age. If Walt Disney isn’t committing copyright fraud, then I don’t think it is fair to say that Girl Talk is. Walt Disney took animated sketches and recreated them into new cartoons, but he didn’t face the strict rules of copyright when he was doing so. Times change, copyright was originally put in place to encourage people to make art, not to discourage them. In some cases copyright laws are needed, but in the case of Girl Talk, they are bringing him down. Girl Talk makes his own music out of the songs he uses and people love it. He is not using these songs as a way to harm anyone, he is making music, and he should be allowed to do so without facing the hand of the law

By Ruby Flynn

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