Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don't Just Watch, RIP! This Film

This "Remixed" Film is the Definite Documentary of the Digital Age

What would it mean if, ten years ago this month, we did not have the ability to share files freely online? The whole idea of sharing viral videos through a site like YouTube would be completely gone. Forget about sharing photos with your family and friends on Flickr, and even those ever-present LOLcats (this is perhaps a mixed blessing). Would we be listening to music over the Internet on such sites as Pandora, or downloading songs without having to buy the whole album from a virtual "record store" like iTunes? Simply stated, the Internet is the most effective way human beings have ever devised to share their ideas. The question of how easy — or not — it is for us to share our music, photos, videos, all our creative works or any media — is the focus of Brett Gaylor's definite documentary of the digital age, RIP! A Remix Manifesto.

RIP! chronicles our media revolution over the last ten years since a teenager named Shawn Fanning in June 1999 changed the face of entertainment, copyright, and the way we look at the Internet. His problem child, Napster, took the idea of sharing "ideas" — notably in the form of music — from the backrooms of bulletin boards to a much wider audience — one very hungry in the late '90s for what they were (not) finding on the radio or "music" television.

If you read the word "Napster" and are thinking "theft" — RIP! is a film that's NOT about making all things free and destroying our system of commerce. This documentary is about our cultural transformation from a media system of a few, very expensive means of distribution, to one where anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can be a consumer as well as a producer of media. Gaylor affirms that balance is needed to ensure that Innovation is: 1) Encouraged and not stifled; 2) Beneficial to all and not just the powerful; 3) A matter of civic cooperation and not for the criminal justice system.

Just how we can strike this delicate balance, RIP! proposes a remix manifesto based on four assertions:

Culture always builds on the Past

The Past always tries to Control the Future

Our Future is becoming less Free

To build Free societies, you must limit Control of the Past

These assertions are then supported using some very captivating studies about several people including: iconic remix artist Girl Talk (whose music you can't find on iTunes except in this film); visionary remix lawyer Lawrence Lessig (author of Free Culture, Code 2.0, and Remix, all available freely at; steadfest remix activist Cory Doctorow (co-author of the widely-popular cultural blog BoingBoing); and pioneering remix politician/musician Gilberto Gil (a former Brazilian Minister of Culture, a rare case of a politician who is a contributor to culture and not a controller of it).

To prove that RIP! pays more than lip-service to the debate, the entire film is available for remixing at During the production of the movie, footage was made available for anyone to create "mash-ups" which found their way into the final film. A participatory media experiment from its inception, says Gayor, "RIP! is an attempt to move beyond the traditional relationship of producer and consumer — we want to recognize that this passive era is over ... and that the film remains an evolving conversation about intellectual property in the digital age."

On the consumer end of the spectrum, RIP! is available in a variety of ways. After premiering at the SXSW Film Festival in March, numerous theatrical screenings have been held throughout the U.S. On the filmmaker's directive, a "Name Your Price" campaign exists at where site visitors set their own price (including free) to download the film. The Disinformation Company has launched digital purchases through iTunes and other platforms, and will release on DVD at the end of June. Exactly how the viewer would like to experience RIP! is for the individual to decide, and not a few corporate decision-makers.

So what will we see from here? Who knows for sure, but the place to start discovering what the future may hold is by watching Brett Gaylor's RIP! A Remix Manifesto.

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