Blurred Lines*

“Young players need freedom of expression to develop as creative players…they should be encouraged to try skills without fear of failure”

-Arsene Wenger

There is a saying that “imitation is the highest form of flattery”, whoever thought of this would/could have been one of the advocates or frontrunners of the concept of remixing. In our present time, as pointed out by Mr. Lawrence Lessig in his talk during the Creative Commons conference in Argentina, remix is the culture. Remix is our culture. With the emergence of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other free social media networks, remix has evolved through time to become one of the most prevalently-used digital form of expressions today. Anyone who doesn’t know what YouTube is is not worthy of using the internet.

One of the points mentioned by Mr. Lessig in his talk that caught my attention was “we share too much illegally” and so we should ask, how can we share legally? And his opinion is there should be a real change in real laws.

I don’t disagree with Mr. Lessig. Ideally, this is really the solution every nation needs. Technology is now within reach of almost everyone. It is a common entity that unites people across countries breaking the barriers separating our geographical distances, diverse cultures, beliefs, social classes, political ideals, and generation gaps. It is one of the things that are universally available to almost everyone. It is one of the most common platforms available and used to share almost anything and almost everything. As such, how do we protect ourselves or our expressions from people who seek to exploit such expressions? This is where the law steps in (or should step in).

 

But how about remixes?

As defined by Wikipedia: “Remix culture is a society that allows and encourages derivative works by combining and editing existing materials to produce a new product. A remix culture would be, by default, permissive efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holders.” [1]

I can’t help but play a devil’s advocate on this, for both sides.

 

On the part of the original creators, let’s admit it, a number would still stand ground to rally for the protection of their work. Who can blame them?  They’ve probably spent sleepless nights to come up with their creative output only to find someone else copying, revising, and reproducing them. Not all people believe that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Some would consider it the lowest and would be considered by their own opinion as plagiarism. Can we blame them? Not entirely. Hence the protection and limitations provided by the law.

But even if we have such a copyright/IP law, a lot of people are still not aware of these rights. People must be educated and informed regarding this. But sad to say, education is not a total/absolute guarantee. Even if we are knowledgeable, all of us, can be said to be guilty of violating one or two prohibited acts (Ahem, pirated DVDs).

 

On the defense of the remix culture, it also takes a great deal of idea and creativity to improve or develop an original work and pass it off to express their own version and entertain their audience. As mentioned by Mr. Lessig, and I totally agree, the idea of remix creates a wider latitude of participation from people. It encourages more people to create. To express. How can you discourage such? It is a product of a constitutional protected right to express oneself. What can we do if nowadays the form of expression branches out through producing derivatives? We cannot suppress the changes brought about by technology.

I was an advocate of the saying I read somewhere a long time ago: “You are born an original, don’t die a copy”, but now I personally don’t have anything against remixing. Derivatives can be viewed as a creative class of their own. It represents creative evolution. It is now the contemporary.

 

But  the real challenge is how can we draw the lines between what should be protected and what shouldn’t be? Between creative or acceptable use and exploitation? Between what is innocently shared and what is already considered as plagiarized? It all boils down to our laws. The law is the proper body to solidify these blurred lines.

 Our law (IDEALLY) must evolve together with our culture, our ideals, and our technology. They must ever and always be the pillars protecting the citizens within their jurisdiction from injustices. But can we protect something considered as an injustice or wrong by a portion of the society? Not without a hard fight.

 I don’t want to be a negatron in saying that amending the law as suggested by Mr. Lesig is a long-shot solution in the Philippines, but can we really do it? Let’s admit it, a number of our local statutes are so outdated already. Most of them desperately need revising to keep up with the present culture and movement socially, politically, culturally, economically, and of course, to keep up with the (very) fast-paced evolution of technology. To accommodate the remix culture would mean a lenient (amendment, if not) interpretation of the fair use clause in our existing IP law.

 

Creative Commons with their wide-range of licenses made available to creators, in my opinion, provides a rather large stepping stone towards marrying the stand of the traditional point of view of having an almost iron-clad copyright protection to their expressions with the liberal and contemporary view that derivatives must be allowed as a right in furtherance of participation and creativity.

It provides an almost customized way of licensing works. Authors/creators can freely share their work but set the parameters and limitations upon the use of such by their audience.  Hopefully in the near future, our own local law can evolve into having the same concept as provided by Creative Commons. Anyway, since the author’s work is their own, they should be given the equal freedom to choose the protection they want for their own works.

 

*Author’s note: Blurred Lines is a title of a pop song by Robin Thicke. I used it as a title since I felt that it is apt for the content of this blog. I do not intend to, in any way, commit a copyright (or any other right for that matter) infringement in using such title. Thank god this is for academic use.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix_culture

 

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Branded

Image“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” – SH Britt

In a scenario of a sponsored event, should spectators or members of the audience be refrained or prohibited from wearing a shirt or any item of clothing with a brand name of another company not sponsoring that event?

                From the point of view of the sponsors, I bet they would side on the positive. Imagine after shelling out thousands of pesos in sponsoring the event, another company can just pay for 10 tickets, hire people to attend the event, dress them with their brand name or logo and just easily catch the attention of the cameras. Boom. Free advertisement. They’d wish they had thought of that earlier. But instead, their logos are relegated to banners displayed side-by-side with other sponsors on the walls of the event ground. It would be lucky if the cameras will even pan on their direction. Other brands would be luckier (well, richer.) if they are able to close a deal with the production arm for exclusive on-site selling. But of course that comes with an even bigger price tag. Not to mention, if the event is filmed live via satellite (or televised at a later time), the TV network will more or less have their own advertisers who have already paid for their commercial slots.

                Reality is, if you don’t have the money, you must have the brains (or a team working for you who has them) to devise other ingenious (and cheap) ways to put your brand out there for everyone to see. If you don’t have both, maybe it’s time to re-think if you’re on the right wagon.

                From the point of view of the production team, maybe they’ll swing more to the side of their sponsors since they were the ones who convinced them in the first place to shell out thousands to support the event. Just imagine the nightmare of having to face an angry sponsor lashing out on you about not being able to control an obvious premeditated (and rather successful) feat of another company or brand (worst, their competitor) advertising freely.

Honestly, could you have controlled it? You wish.

It will be heaven for any production or events team if they can control the will of their audience. No rowdy behaviour, everyone will happily form their lines in the entrance gates, no one attempting to upgrade their seats by jumping down barriers, no scalpers, no illegal filming of the event, no one will attempt to bring in anything prohibited, no request for refunds, everyone will be perfectly happy.

You wish.

The thing is, can the events crew even prohibit those people from wearing other brands? Can they attempt to throw those people out of the event? Of course not. Those are people who legitimately bought tickets. So unless they are hitting each other with beer bottles in the head, or flashing, or doing anything illegal, they have the right to stay.

Can a dress code be imposed in an event? In a wedding, maybe. But I haven’t had the occasion of attending a concert with a specific dress code imposed prohibiting  brands who are not the event sponsors displayed on shirts and I don’t think it’s a very good idea to start having one. It might even pose as a detriment rather than an advantage for the sponsor.

From the point of view of the audience, definitely it will be on the negative. People don’t respond well whenever there’s an attempt to control them especially if it’s not for a good reason. Audience won’t give a rat’s ass about some contract between a producer and an advertiser. They are there for the event and they should be allowed to wear anything they want (as long as they are wearing something).

                From my own point of view: it depends on the event.

                If the event is one presented or done directly by the company/brand, then I feel that it is only right that clothing exposing other brands/logos (especially their direct competitors) can be prohibited in the event.

                An example of this would be the Bench Fashion Show. Imagine if 10 people sitting in the front row of the event are wearing shirts bearing “Penshoppe” or whatever competitor brand that Bench has. It just isn’t right. Friendly competition between brands is healthy but that act would be downright low and can constitute as a sabotage. Between competing brands (or any two entities competing, for that matter), there must always be mutual respect.

                But if the event is not specifically created or done directly for or by a specific brand (band concerts, professional sports games, etc.), then I feel that people attending such event (who most probably paid to get in) should be allowed to wear anything they wish. It’s not entirely about the fact that I paid to get in but it’s about having the freedom to choose what I want to wear.

                If people/companies/brands choose to take advantage of such events or situations, then let them. I feel that it is in the hands of the production or events team to deal with them. Not by asking them to leave the event, but by consciously filtering what they televise on the live feed.

                First of all, they are the ones under contract with the sponsors so it is their obligation to make sure that the sponsors get the exposure that they paid for.

                The latest concert I attended/watched was that of Maroon 5. It was amazing. I can remember what songs they sang and what was being sold inside Araneta during the concert but I couldn’t recall any of its sponsors.

                Maybe events are not the best venue to advertise since no matter how much money you spend on tarpaulin, posters, on-air exposure, etc., there will always be something bigger than you. And that’s the event itself. So unless you do something grand on the event itself, or have Adam Levine wear your shirt (then take it off), more or less the audience will just forget about you.

Second, being the ones in charge of the event and having the power to be anywhere inside the events grounds, they are the ones who should be aware of the presence of people hired for the sole reason of hoping to get free exposure or air time. Then they should instruct their cameramen to avoid filming these people.

I have experienced watching TV shows shown in cable TV where the network blurs brand names in some shows to avoid free advertising. They may choose to also do the same thing.

The point is the freedom of choice of the people should not be sacrificed for the mere fact that certain groups of people paid big bucks in order for their logos to appear on the event’s materials. It is not the obligation of the people to comply with an internal agreement between a sponsor and the events handlers. 

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