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.



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