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Rip it up, rip it off

Music documentary champions the public domain

Pittsburgh-based mash-up DJ Girl Talk released his latest album, Feed the Animals, as an Internet download on a choose-your-own-price basis à la Radiohead. Choosing to pay $0.00 for Feed the Animals will redirect you to a list of options asking why you’re so cheap, one of which reads, “I don’t value music made from sampling.” In RIP: A Remix Manifesto, it’s not the originality of the songs that is at stake, but who owns the rights to them.

Director Brett Gaylor makes little effort to hide his alliances in his new documentary RIP – the film is subtitled A Remix Manifesto, after all. The film consists of a series of interviews with champions of the public domain who believe that intellectual property laws interfere with our access to culture and our ability to assemble different parts of it into an innovative new whole.

According to Gaylor, culture always builds on the past. Copyright laws are an example of the past trying to impose limits on the future, and Gaylor believes that this leads to cultural stagnation.

Beyond simply being a call for reform, RIP also provides an interesting history of copyright law from the 1710 Statute of Anne through Walt Disney’s retellings of classic fairy tales, and Negativland’s culture jamming to BitTorrent and baile funk.

RIP: A Remix Manifesto is playing October 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cinéma Impérial and October 18 at 7:20 p.m. Ex-Centris.