CNN featured a story on Paul Miller, perhaps better known as DJ Spooky, as part of a series on creativity. Miller uses technology to blend various media and remix seemingly disjointed work into one collaborative piece. Todd Leopold followed Miller, and explains how the creative process isn’t one of individuals working independently, but instead is a long process of derivative works from earlier ideas.
Leopold writes: “Even people who seem to come up with new ideas out of thin air are building on the discoveries and advances of others — whether they’re aware of the influences or not.” This is why the concept of IP laws can’t work alongside innovation and creativity; one is necessarily at odds with the other. And while advocates of Intellectual Property (IP) argue that measures such as SOPA/PIPA are meant to foster creativity, it simply cannot do this by restricting the creative process described above.
In the article Leopold refers to Kirby Ferguson, a filmmaker who’s produced a series on YouTube called “Everything is a Remix.” Ferguson says that “creativity isn’t magic,” and he convincingly proves this thesis. The videos, which can be seen here, here, and here, are fabulous demonstrations of the evolution of ideas. We learn that Star Wars, Avatar, and Led Zeppelin are remixes; and so too are the printing press, computer, and phonograph.
Proponents of IP have long claimed that protection is necessary to incentivize production, much in the same way that domestic producers argue for protective tariffs. But just as such intervention in the manufacturing sector hinders economic growth on net, so too does government involvement in the area of ideas. There is a moral case to be made for allowing individuals to use their own scarce property as they wish. To prohibit this necessarily requires that freedom of private property is abridged. A utilitarian case can also be made for permitting emulation.
Progress stops if copying is restricted, since everything is a remix. Civilization would literally stand still if no further derivative work is done. In fact regression would ensue if intellectual monopoly is fostered and encouraged. Imagine for a moment the state we’d be in were it not for the freedom for Thomas Edison to “[improve] electric lamps,” or if Henry Ford couldn’t combine the assembly line, interchangeable parts and the automobile. For the sake of civilization, please, copy, emulate, innovate, improve, and encourage others to do the same.