RiP!: A Remix Manifesto

· Tuesday June 2, 2009

RiP! is an “open source” documentary film that explores the legal grey area of remixing existing recorded works. Famous remix dude Girl Talk (or Gregg Gillis to his mum) is the film's focus, as filmmaker Brett Gaylor tracks down the mash-up fiend to discuss how he gets away with ripping off so many well-known tracks without the permission of the original performers. No permission + no royalty expenses = profit! Other talking heads on camera include pop culture commentator Cory Doctorow, Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig and Brazilian musician/former cultural minister Gilberto Gil.

Brett Gaylor is such a cool dude that he wants you to watch the movie for free online, show it to all of your friends and remix it however you see fit. That's the nature of this “open source”, which was a collaborative effort that featured the assistance of several hundred people across six years.

Gaylor's remix manifesto reinforces his primary belief in loosening copyright law's archaic deathgrip. And he's a Girl Talk fan, which implies that he knows how to party. Before seeing this film I had little respect for a dude who just takes the work of others and just smashes it together, like a pre-schooler does play-dough, but the scenes where Gaylor shows Girl Talk - who cites 'fair use' when transforming samples - skewing snippets beyond the original are fascinating. Gaylor's main argument is that the laws surrounding copyright were written way before the internet was conceived, and they've barely moved since. So while the film is an energising trip through the minds of some refreshingly progressive music and web culture figures, I can't help but form a mental picture of grey-haired old men shaking their jowls at us meddling kids.