Guest Post: Don’t Fight Remixing, Encourage It

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Whenever possible, I like to encourage guest posting on this site so that readers can receive a wide variety of view points from related fields. Today’s column comes from Dan Zarrella, a social media consultant.

Online social media, like socialized forms of media before it, has at its core the concept of communal recreation. Lessig called it The Remix Culture. What ever you label it, its a focus on derivative works.

In urban legends, gossip and oral tradition, each time the story is retold it is remixed with frameworks and concepts already possessed by the teller. Verbatim repetition is very rare.

Online the media and the tools have changed but the idea remains the same, each remixer is applying their own frameworks and concepts to a new bit of media.

Copyright laws do not understand modern derivative culture because they differ from traditional forms in the size of their potential reach and distribution.

The music industry is one easy example after another. The Grey Album for instance. And there’s probably a new example of this every day on youtube.

It is impossible to fight the current of derivative culture, but it is possible to take advantage of it.

Marketers can and should take advantage of this phenomenon by encouraging users to remix pieces of brand content (and perhaps even giving them the tools to do it and share). Danger lies here, as Chevy learned with their Make Your Own Tahoe Commercial, but there is also a lot of reward to be had like everytime Stephen Colbert asks his users to remix some video of him.

A content producer will benefit himself greatly (And probably avoid unwanted content reuse) if he or she allows some of his content to be remixed (and again, encourages or facilitates the process and sharing) under a Creative Commons license. This trade of a little bit of media for increased exposure will ultimately increase the value of that producer’s work, not diminish it.

Dan Zarrella is a social media marketing consultant and if you liked this post you can read his blog, follow him on twitter, or vote for him for Best Social Media Marketing Blog in the Search Engine Journal Search Blog Awards.

If you are interested in writing a guest column for this blog, please contact me via email.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. "Marketers can and should take advantage of this phenomenon by…..Stephen Colbert asks his users to remix some video of him."I would appreciate your elaborating on this paragraph in one of your posts. Thank you.

  2. "Marketers can and should take advantage of this phenomenon by…..Stephen Colbert asks his users to remix some video of him."

    I would appreciate your elaborating on this paragraph in one of your posts. Thank you.

  3. I started coming around your blog a lot recently after the Lane Hartwell incident. During that time I was really amazed at the number of people who kept advising that people give up their content because in the end it would give them more exposure or what not. So I wasn’t too surprised to see the guest blogger write the following:

    This trade of a little bit of media for increased exposure will ultimately increase the value of that producer’s work, not diminish it.

    I can understand that idea but I can’t help but roll my eyes or laugh at the sentiment. Very few people who give away their artistic creations ever see any real benefit from it. Who is going to want to pay for someone when they have a track record of giving it away?

    Probably the biggest reason I find this laughable is because I’m sure the people advising giving it away in this “derivative culture” don’t make their living this way. If they were giving it away they wouldn’t be able to pay their rent, buy food and pay their web hosting fees. The “derivative culture” is a social construct created and promulgated by tech geeks who don’t have much value for art or the creator.

  4. I do make a living selling my work, but its all custom, I'm a consultant.I would imagine the same or less number of people make a living selling non-customized content than make any money giving it away.The tides of technology and culture are washing away the value of non-custom content. I of course support author's rights, I just question reliance on them as a business model.

  5. I started coming around your blog a lot recently after the Lane Hartwell incident. During that time I was really amazed at the number of people who kept advising that people give up their content because in the end it would give them more exposure or what not. So I wasn’t too surprised to see the guest blogger write the following:

    This trade of a little bit of media for increased exposure will ultimately increase the value of that producers work, not diminish it.

    I can understand that idea but I can’t help but roll my eyes or laugh at the sentiment. Very few people who give away their artistic creations ever see any real benefit from it. Who is going to want to pay for someone when they have a track record of giving it away?

    Probably the biggest reason I find this laughable is because I’m sure the people advising giving it away in this “derivative culture” don’t make their living this way. If they were giving it away they wouldn’t be able to pay their rent, buy food and pay their web hosting fees. The “derivative culture” is a social construct created and promulgated by tech geeks who don’t have much value for art or the creator.

  6. RS: Though it isn't my article and I'm really not in a position to offer any defense or clarification, I did find this link that related to the topic: <a href="http://www.socialmedia.biz/2007/03/remix_stephen_c.html
    “>http://www.socialmedia.biz/2007/03/remix_stephen_

    That was the best reference I could find following a quick search.(Note: RS's comment was accidentally trapped in spam filters and just posted yesterday)MBT:I have to agree that it isn't right for every artist or every business model. I "give away" my writings here because I make my living through consulting and paid blogging at other sites. However, the nature of my business makes my expertise more valuable than my writing. However, if I went back to my days as a short story author/poet, things change. I never made any money off of my sites in that area. I gave away my works, but it was never with the intent of making a profit, I lost a lot of money never could have made anything from it. A print book did modestly well, but never recouped what I spent.If I were going to be serious about making money from poetry, I would have to transition to another business model and move some of my work away from CC. I personally try not to paint licensing with a broad brush and let people make their own decisions. What is right in one case is not right in another. However, your point about most people who are recommending giving their works away are not making their living from their work is true. However, that's the case largely because very few people are making their living from their work.Lane Hartwell is the exception, not the rule.Some people have done very well giving away their works, most do not. Then again, most people fail trying to sell it the traditional way as well.I just tell people to do what is right for them and help them enforce the rights they do keep. It's the best way for me to work.

  7. I do make a living selling my work, but its all custom, I'm a consultant.

    I would imagine the same or less number of people make a living selling non-customized content than make any money giving it away.

    The tides of technology and culture are washing away the value of non-custom content. I of course support author's rights, I just question reliance on them as a business model.

  8. I do make a living selling my work, but its all custom, I'm a consultant.I would imagine the same or less number of people make a living selling non-customized content than make any money giving it away.The tides of technology and culture are washing away the value of non-custom content. I of course support author's rights, I just question reliance on them as a business model.

  9. RS:

    Though it isn’t my article and I’m really not in a position to offer any defense or clarification, I did find this link that related to the topic:

    http://www.socialmedia.biz/2007/03/remix_stephe

    That was the best reference I could find following a quick search.

    (Note: RS’s comment was accidentally trapped in spam filters and just posted yesterday)

    MBT:

    I have to agree that it isn’t right for every artist or every business model. I “give away” my writings here because I make my living through consulting and paid blogging at other sites. However, the nature of my business makes my expertise more valuable than my writing.

    However, if I went back to my days as a short story author/poet, things change. I never made any money off of my sites in that area. I gave away my works, but it was never with the intent of making a profit, I lost a lot of money never could have made anything from it. A print book did modestly well, but never recouped what I spent.

    If I were going to be serious about making money from poetry, I would have to transition to another business model and move some of my work away from CC.

    I personally try not to paint licensing with a broad brush and let people make their own decisions. What is right in one case is not right in another.

    However, your point about most people who are recommending giving their works away are not making their living from their work is true. However, that’s the case largely because very few people are making their living from their work.

    Lane Hartwell is the exception, not the rule.

    Some people have done very well giving away their works, most do not. Then again, most people fail trying to sell it the traditional way as well.

    I just tell people to do what is right for them and help them enforce the rights they do keep. It’s the best way for me to work.

  10. RS:

    Though it isn’t my article and I’m really not in a position to offer any defense or clarification, I did find this link that related to the topic:

    http://www.socialmedia.biz/2007/03/remix_stephen_c.html

    That was the best reference I could find following a quick search.

    (Note: RS’s comment was accidentally trapped in spam filters and just posted yesterday)

    MBT:

    I have to agree that it isn’t right for every artist or every business model. I “give away” my writings here because I make my living through consulting and paid blogging at other sites. However, the nature of my business makes my expertise more valuable than my writing.

    However, if I went back to my days as a short story author/poet, things change. I never made any money off of my sites in that area. I gave away my works, but it was never with the intent of making a profit, I lost a lot of money never could have made anything from it. A print book did modestly well, but never recouped what I spent.

    If I were going to be serious about making money from poetry, I would have to transition to another business model and move some of my work away from CC.

    I personally try not to paint licensing with a broad brush and let people make their own decisions. What is right in one case is not right in another.

    However, your point about most people who are recommending giving their works away are not making their living from their work is true. However, that’s the case largely because very few people are making their living from their work.

    Lane Hartwell is the exception, not the rule.

    Some people have done very well giving away their works, most do not. Then again, most people fail trying to sell it the traditional way as well.

    I just tell people to do what is right for them and help them enforce the rights they do keep. It’s the best way for me to work.

  11. "However, your point about most people who are recommending giving their works away are not making their living from their work is true. However, that’s the case largely because very few people are making their living from their work.Lane Hartwell is the exception, not the rule."And why do you suppose that few people are making their living from their work? I would venture a guess it is because their work is diminished by this so-called remix culture and because so few people value the works of others. The thing I was getting at in the Lane example was how all of these high profile bloggers and sites expected her to give away her work all the while they have full copyright notices on their work. That's beyond hypocrisy.People taking images from the net for their own use when permission isn't granted is an example of people having little value or respect for photography and photographers. The thing that really bothered me about the Lane incident was how so many people were upset with her and trashed her because she didn't want to be part of the "remix culture" that these techies have created. The level of vitriol and sexist comments leveled at her by people who believe in the remix culture was hideous. If that's the kind of people you are associated with if you join this so-called revolution-I'd rather stay away.@Dan"I of course support author’s rights, I just question reliance on them as a business model." If they can't be relied upon as a business model then what good are they? What purpose do they serve? And it is one thing to say you don't agree with them as a business model but you don't provide an alternative business model. Giving something away in the hopes that you'll get someone else to pay for it down the line doesn't make much sense to me. Where is the incentive for a consumer to pay a creator for their product when the creator is known to give it away for free?Without an alternative presented isn't the comment and the sentiments of the post just a platitude?

  12. "However, your point about most people who are recommending giving their works away are not making their living from their work is true. However, that’s the case largely because very few people are making their living from their work.

    Lane Hartwell is the exception, not the rule."

    And why do you suppose that few people are making their living from their work? I would venture a guess it is because their work is diminished by this so-called remix culture and because so few people value the works of others. The thing I was getting at in the Lane example was how all of these high profile bloggers and sites expected her to give away her work all the while they have full copyright notices on their work. That's beyond hypocrisy.

    People taking images from the net for their own use when permission isn't granted is an example of people having little value or respect for photography and photographers.

    The thing that really bothered me about the Lane incident was how so many people were upset with her and trashed her because she didn't want to be part of the "remix culture" that these techies have created. The level of vitriol and sexist comments leveled at her by people who believe in the remix culture was hideous. If that's the kind of people you are associated with if you join this so-called revolution-I'd rather stay away.

    @Dan

    "I of course support author’s rights, I just question reliance on them as a business model."

    If they can't be relied upon as a business model then what good are they? What purpose do they serve? And it is one thing to say you don't agree with them as a business model but you don't provide an alternative business model.

    Giving something away in the hopes that you'll get someone else to pay for it down the line doesn't make much sense to me. Where is the incentive for a consumer to pay a creator for their product when the creator is known to give it away for free?

    Without an alternative presented isn't the comment and the sentiments of the post just a platitude?

  13. "However, your point about most people who are recommending giving their works away are not making their living from their work is true. However, that’s the case largely because very few people are making their living from their work.Lane Hartwell is the exception, not the rule."And why do you suppose that few people are making their living from their work? I would venture a guess it is because their work is diminished by this so-called remix culture and because so few people value the works of others. The thing I was getting at in the Lane example was how all of these high profile bloggers and sites expected her to give away her work all the while they have full copyright notices on their work. That's beyond hypocrisy.People taking images from the net for their own use when permission isn't granted is an example of people having little value or respect for photography and photographers. The thing that really bothered me about the Lane incident was how so many people were upset with her and trashed her because she didn't want to be part of the "remix culture" that these techies have created. The level of vitriol and sexist comments leveled at her by people who believe in the remix culture was hideous. If that's the kind of people you are associated with if you join this so-called revolution-I'd rather stay away.@Dan

    "I of course support author’s rights, I just question reliance on them as a business model." If they can't be relied upon as a business model then what good are they? What purpose do they serve? And it is one thing to say you don't agree with them as a business model but you don't provide an alternative business model. Giving something away in the hopes that you'll get someone else to pay for it down the line doesn't make much sense to me. Where is the incentive for a consumer to pay a creator for their product when the creator is known to give it away for free?Without an alternative presented isn't the comment and the sentiments of the post just a platitude?

  14. MBT: "And why do you suppose that few people are making their living from their work?"As I said, it is because very few people make a living from their work under any business model. I have not yet found a business model for artists that works consistently for fails every time. The failure rate for a small business is about 75%. I'd wager that rate is much higher for artists. That's been true for centuries. The term "starving artist" predates the remix culture by hundreds of years.That being said, the hypocrisy you point to is clear and something I've noticed. I can name a few sites that openly praise the remix culture but don't participate in it. However, I won't because there's little to be gained from pointing out the obvious.My criticism of Hartwell stemmed less from the fact that she didn't want to join the remix culture, but more to the fact that she ignored fair use issues with the video and the distinct possibility that the use of the image was not an infringement. She was right to demand attribution, but I feel she overplayed her hand.However, I have to agree that emotions got far too heated during that whole exchange. If there is one thing that I can definitely agree with Prof. Lessig on, it is that war achieves nothing.The kind of dialog that was being hurled by both sides was uncalled for and added nothing to the debate. There is no argument from me on that point either.

  15. MBT:

    "And why do you suppose that few people are making their living from their work?"

    As I said, it is because very few people make a living from their work under any business model. I have not yet found a business model for artists that works consistently for fails every time.

    The failure rate for a small business is about 75%. I'd wager that rate is much higher for artists. That's been true for centuries. The term "starving artist" predates the remix culture by hundreds of years.

    That being said, the hypocrisy you point to is clear and something I've noticed. I can name a few sites that openly praise the remix culture but don't participate in it. However, I won't because there's little to be gained from pointing out the obvious.

    My criticism of Hartwell stemmed less from the fact that she didn't want to join the remix culture, but more to the fact that she ignored fair use issues with the video and the distinct possibility that the use of the image was not an infringement. She was right to demand attribution, but I feel she overplayed her hand.

    However, I have to agree that emotions got far too heated during that whole exchange. If there is one thing that I can definitely agree with Prof. Lessig on, it is that war achieves nothing.

    The kind of dialog that was being hurled by both sides was uncalled for and added nothing to the debate. There is no argument from me on that point either.

  16. MBT: "And why do you suppose that few people are making their living from their work?"As I said, it is because very few people make a living from their work under any business model. I have not yet found a business model for artists that works consistently for fails every time. The failure rate for a small business is about 75%. I'd wager that rate is much higher for artists. That's been true for centuries. The term "starving artist" predates the remix culture by hundreds of years.That being said, the hypocrisy you point to is clear and something I've noticed. I can name a few sites that openly praise the remix culture but don't participate in it. However, I won't because there's little to be gained from pointing out the obvious.My criticism of Hartwell stemmed less from the fact that she didn't want to join the remix culture, but more to the fact that she ignored fair use issues with the video and the distinct possibility that the use of the image was not an infringement. She was right to demand attribution, but I feel she overplayed her hand.However, I have to agree that emotions got far too heated during that whole exchange. If there is one thing that I can definitely agree with Prof. Lessig on, it is that war achieves nothing.The kind of dialog that was being hurled by both sides was uncalled for and added nothing to the debate. There is no argument from me on that point either.

  17. "My criticism of Hartwell stemmed less from the fact that she didn’t want to join the remix culture, but more to the fact that she ignored fair use issues with the video and the distinct possibility that the use of the image was not an infringement. She was right to demand attribution, but I feel she overplayed her hand."Funny because I thought The Richter Scales handled it very poorly and kind of forced her to go to the measures she did. If I remember reading correctly after she contacted them they basically told her to talk to their lawyer and brushed her off and forced her hand.I read the people in The Richter Scales all had day jobs in the tech field but I still consider them "artists." What ultimately made me side with Lane in the situation was that they ultimately took something created by a fellow artists and failed to at least get permission or give credit. I expect the average person to "steal" pics or the lazy eBay seller to take pics to illustrate a product but I expect better from other artists. I don't make a living from blogging or from selling stock photos because I don't put enough time into it. But I make enough that if someone just takes what they want that how much I can make from it is impacted. Anyway thanks for discussion. Another post of yours got me thinking about something that I'd like to email you about if that's ok with you.

  18. "My criticism of Hartwell stemmed less from the fact that she didn’t want to join the remix culture, but more to the fact that she ignored fair use issues with the video and the distinct possibility that the use of the image was not an infringement. She was right to demand attribution, but I feel she overplayed her hand."

    Funny because I thought The Richter Scales handled it very poorly and kind of forced her to go to the measures she did. If I remember reading correctly after she contacted them they basically told her to talk to their lawyer and brushed her off and forced her hand.

    I read the people in The Richter Scales all had day jobs in the tech field but I still consider them "artists." What ultimately made me side with Lane in the situation was that they ultimately took something created by a fellow artists and failed to at least get permission or give credit. I expect the average person to "steal" pics or the lazy eBay seller to take pics to illustrate a product but I expect better from other artists.

    I don't make a living from blogging or from selling stock photos because I don't put enough time into it. But I make enough that if someone just takes what they want that how much I can make from it is impacted.

    Anyway thanks for discussion. Another post of yours got me thinking about something that I'd like to email you about if that's ok with you.

  19. "My criticism of Hartwell stemmed less from the fact that she didn’t want to join the remix culture, but more to the fact that she ignored fair use issues with the video and the distinct possibility that the use of the image was not an infringement. She was right to demand attribution, but I feel she overplayed her hand."Funny because I thought The Richter Scales handled it very poorly and kind of forced her to go to the measures she did. If I remember reading correctly after she contacted them they basically told her to talk to their lawyer and brushed her off and forced her hand.I read the people in The Richter Scales all had day jobs in the tech field but I still consider them "artists." What ultimately made me side with Lane in the situation was that they ultimately took something created by a fellow artists and failed to at least get permission or give credit. I expect the average person to "steal" pics or the lazy eBay seller to take pics to illustrate a product but I expect better from other artists. I don't make a living from blogging or from selling stock photos because I don't put enough time into it. But I make enough that if someone just takes what they want that how much I can make from it is impacted. Anyway thanks for discussion. Another post of yours got me thinking about something that I'd like to email you about if that's ok with you.

  20. MBT: If you revisit my original commentary on the topic, I originally found fault on both sides. The Richter Scaled definitely share some, if not much of the blame. I really took and continue to take a "there are no heroes here" approach to the matter. I really didn't take sides, and still don't have any desire to as I don't see that as productive, but once the video was removed, attribution was offered for everything and the photo was removed, Hartwell pressed on, demanding payment for the original video.I think the situation offers lessons for both copyright holders and those seeking to use content. What I would like to see is less hostility on the issue and more learning and understanding. As far as emailing me goes, please feel free. I'd love to discuss anything with you that tripped your radar. My email address is in the sidebar. Just drop me a line any time and thank you for the discussion as well!

  21. MBT: If you revisit my original commentary on the topic, I originally found fault on both sides. The Richter Scaled definitely share some, if not much of the blame. I really took and continue to take a "there are no heroes here" approach to the matter.

    I really didn't take sides, and still don't have any desire to as I don't see that as productive, but once the video was removed, attribution was offered for everything and the photo was removed, Hartwell pressed on, demanding payment for the original video.

    I think the situation offers lessons for both copyright holders and those seeking to use content. What I would like to see is less hostility on the issue and more learning and understanding.

    As far as emailing me goes, please feel free. I'd love to discuss anything with you that tripped your radar. My email address is in the sidebar. Just drop me a line any time and thank you for the discussion as well!

  22. MBT: If you revisit my original commentary on the topic, I originally found fault on both sides. The Richter Scaled definitely share some, if not much of the blame. I really took and continue to take a "there are no heroes here" approach to the matter. I really didn't take sides, and still don't have any desire to as I don't see that as productive, but once the video was removed, attribution was offered for everything and the photo was removed, Hartwell pressed on, demanding payment for the original video.I think the situation offers lessons for both copyright holders and those seeking to use content. What I would like to see is less hostility on the issue and more learning and understanding. As far as emailing me goes, please feel free. I'd love to discuss anything with you that tripped your radar. My email address is in the sidebar. Just drop me a line any time and thank you for the discussion as well!

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