As evidence for the need of a free culture, Lawrence Lessig cites the remix. While a remix is usually understood as adding a four-to-the-floor dance beat to the reigning pop songs of the day, Lessig takes a broader view: a remix is a work that uses other works from the present or past culture and does something new with them. This incorporates the usual pop song remix as well as Disney films (which often use Grimm fairy tales). I think one could argue the importance of the remix but the phenomenon is something worth preserving.
Lessig uses anime video mixed with pop/rock songs as an example of a remix. I think he could use a far better example: The Symphony of Science.
For those not aware, Symphony of Science is work done by John Boswell to promote interest in science. His first video, A Glorious Dawn, used audio and video from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, autotuned Sagan’s voice, mixed everything together, and created a wonderful video about continuing our pursuit of knowledge of “the cosmos.”
Boswell continued making these videos: We Are All Connected, Our Place in the Cosmos, the Unbroken Thread, and the Poetry of Reality – all promote the pursuit of astronomy and evolutionary biology as roads toward understanding who we are and how we can discover that. Most recently the Case for Mars argues for a manned-mission to Mars.
All the videos use previously made footage from documentaries many people would not normally watch and further use new technology to make that footage digestable by a modern audience – Youtube, musical remixes, and autotune. Interestingly, others have even made remixes of those remixes!
Unfortunately, in a news update on Facebook, Boswell wrote:
“Hey everybody – I hate to say this, but I have been denied permission to use Carl/Cosmos in the latest video. I sincerely apologize, and please be patient as I re-work this latest episode!”
While the reasons are unclear and I couldn’t find any additional information, this is definitely a mistake. Symphony of Science reintroduced Sagan to the modern audience. In fact, several commenters said they had not even heard of him until these videos! Instead, the copyright holders told Boswell to no longer use Cosmos footage and I can’t see how that is not lose/lose.
Copyright law is certainly necessary, but for it be used in such an unfortunate away – depriving us from wonderful “edutainment” and depriving Sagan of some well-deserved publicity. ‘Tis a shame.