Weblogg-ed News posted about a recent Lawrence Lessig essay about the "Read-Write Web" in the Financial Times. The article caught my eye because it disusses Anime Music Videos, and I like AMVs. But I stayed, and read the article to friends, because the article is really good. It uses AMVs as a case study for looking at trends in copyright on the web. As technology increasingly enables people to not only consume media but to remix, retell, and share it, the potential is vast --as is the loss we face if we successfully prevent such creativity.
Lessig also makes a few points I haven't seen others making so directly, including the fact that we do this anyway. We retell stories to each other, we recreate movies to our friends as we complain or rave about them, and we fuse media constantly in our daily life in an effort to refine (or communicate) the effect that consumed art has upon us. Have you ever put on somemusic at a party with your friends because it created the mood you wanted? Have you put stickers on a notebook because they made you laugh, smile, or made some comment about what you were sticking them on? These are retellings, and the only real difference between them and an AMV is that technology has allowed the AMV to be more polished and more widely available.
Lessig ends the article with a great question to Wind Up Records, which recently forced an AMV community to remove all videos with Wind Up Records music: Now that you’ve succeeded in stopping thousands of kids from spending hundreds of thousands of hours to make fantastically creative content that promotes your work for free, do you really expect to sell more records next year?
I can cite personal example after example where his point applies to me. I found the Faithless song Mass Destruction in an AMV and almost immediately went to the iTunes Music Store to get it. I've bought several albums because friends put them on mixes and I wanted the rest of the album.
This is in my hypertext blog because I think the problem is a hypertextual one... how do you give credit (in any sense) for transclusion? What sorts of currency navigate the links formed by transclusion, and how do we formalize that exchange? For years it has been a clear sign that someone Doesn't Get It about the web if they demand that you get permission to link to their site... and yet that's what cracking down on AMVs is. Heck, in a larger sense, by linking to those posts I am adding them to my own narrative in a (very diluted) form of transclusion, just as I was remixing Lessig's article as I read bits of it to my friends. I don't think these acts --discussing, linking, remixing-- differ in form but rather in scope... and I don't think the difference in scope changes the message.