Remixing Colbert

We’d like to join the EFF, Cory Doctorow, and others in applauding Lawrence Lessig’s appearance on the Stephen Colbert show on Thursday Jan 8, 2009 (watch the video at colbertnation.com). Lessig was there to promote his new book, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, and Colbert, in his sly way, noted that the remix economy was good for copyright holders, noting that, “When we have our green screen challenges, they [fans] do all the work and I get all the ad revenue.” Colbert also issued a kind of reverse-language remix challenge to his fans:

Colbert: Nobody should take my work and do anything with it that is not approved! Ever ever never ever take anything of mine and remix it! For instance, I will be very angry and possibly litigious if anyone out there takes this interview right here and remixes it with some great dance beat. And it starts showing up in clubs across America.

Actually, there are already some great Colbert (and Colbert/Stewart) vids out there.

One of my favorite Colbert vidders is Di, who’s made vids such as “Bad Day” (which she describes as “a tribute to my hero, the wonderful Stephen Colbert, during his Daily Show years”) as well as the joyful Jon/Stephen vid “All The Small Things.”


Bad Day (Stephen) – Di


All The Small Things (Jon/Stephen) – Di

I would have linked to these vids on YouTube, except, whoops:

This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.

Which brings us to the next point: just as vids and remixes become more widely known and this art form becomes accessible to more participants, YouTube has begun aggressively taking them down.

I don’t think the situation is quite as dire as Mike Riggs notes in Reason Magazine’s blog post, New YouTube Policy Heralds an end to Vidding, Mash-ups, Dancing Babies–for one thing, the courts seem to be pro-Dancing Babies, and we just elected a president on a wave of political remix video. (Obama, at least, seems to understand the importance of remixing; his websites, change.gov and now (\o/) whitehouse.gov, were released under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licenses.) But Stephanie Lenz and the EFF fought for the rights of Dancing Babies everywhere, and vidders are going to have to fight too.

As Colbert has recognized, vidding is good for copyright holders: it makes people want to watch your show. It also makes people want to buy your song, because of the new, positive associations with it. (Fans bought Regina Spektor in droves after Lim transformed “Us” into a fannish anthem; see Jonathan Gray’s almost offhand note of how Lim sold Regina’s work to him.)

Vidding is a form of speech: it’s an essay in visual form. There’s a lot of talk in education circles about “the language of new media” and of the importance of learning how to communicate through the media: vidding is a fun, grassroots form of media education. Some vids are of course better than others, but all vids are useful creative exercises: at the very least, vids turn our one-way, read-only culture into a read-write culture. Or as Clay Shirky put it: “A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken.” Increasingly, that screen comes standard with some form of video editing software, too.

To Our Friends On LJ

Don’t panic! Livejournal isn’t in any imminent danger, despite today’s news (many of us here at OTW are archivists, and we know how long it takes for sites, even unattended ones, to degrade.) We’ll all still be here tomorrow!

That being said, we do want to remind LJ-based fandom that:

* You can create a User: page for yourself on Fanlore. (All those “If LJ goes away” posts on LJ are kind of useless if LJ actually goes away!) You can put all your pseuds, journals, websites, and other contact info on your User: page, and the wiki is searchable and obviously updatable, so folks will always know where to find you. (See examples here, and there’s an easy “create account” link in the left side toolbar of every page.) (Please note that the User: page is different from a regular wiki page. You control the content of your User: page: it’s more like a LJ profile page, whereas regular wiki pages about individual fans are collaborative and editable; generally, others will make and edit these pages.)

* You can also document fannish information and resources on Fanlore. LJ hosts a number of irreplaceable fandom overviews, rec lists, newbie guides and the like, so take a minute to add some information to your fandoms’ main pages, pairing pages, etc. Document fannish lists, communities, fanon, writers, artists, vidders, stories, kerfuffles, debates, and other fanworks. It’s really easy. (Ask me how!)

* The Archive of Our Own has been steadily giving out beta accounts a few at a time; help us out, whether by giving us useful feedback on the workings of the beta-archive (there’s a handy feedback form) or by volunteering to work at with us in some other way, and we will totally put you at the head of the line (er, as long as you’re up for the creakiness of beta. Hey, we’re working on it!) If not, we hope to be offering more general invites soon, after the next few rounds of code revisions. (We’re at 953 on the public; 1012 is in the can; more coming soon!)

Remember, too, that if your fic is archived on LJ, and all the fancy backups alarm you, you can just go to your stories on LJ and save them as HTML pages on your hard drive — then, in the worst case, even if LJ vanishes in the meantime, you’ll be able to just copy and paste those files into the archive software once you do have an account.

Is YouTube Blocking Your Vids? Exercise Your Right To Fair Use!

We’ve heard from a number of people that YouTube has recently blocked a number of fanvids due to alleged music rights violations. But YouTube also provides a mechanism for vidders to assert their right to fair use: a quick and easy dispute process.

YouTube recognizes that there are legitimate artistic and critical reasons to use copyrighted material, and the online form gives, as a potential reason for dispute: “This video uses copyrighted material in a manner that does not require approval of the copyright holder. It is a fair use under copyright law.” The form also asks you to explain further.

Fair use is a muscle: it gets stronger when you exercise it, so if you believe that your vid is fair use, that it transforms copyrighted material for a new critical or creative purpose, you should dispute the claim.

Here are some resources you might consult to explain why your vid is fair use:

1) The Best Practices in User-Generated Content released by the American University Center for Social Media. (Their main site on fair use is here.)

2) The EFF’s Test Suite of Fair Use Examples for Service Providers and Content Owners; the test suite features a vid.

3) The Q&A with Fan Vidder Luminosity in New York Magazine.

4) Michael Wesch’s Anthropological Introduction to YouTube presented to the Library of Congress on June 23, 2008 (features Lim’s vid “Us” among other videos).

5) Other academic and legal articles about vidding include:

Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the vidding underground. Reason Magazine, August/September 2008

Francesca Coppa, Women, Star Trek, and the Development of Fannish Vidding in Transformative Works and Cultures (2008)

Henry Jenkins, How to Watch a Fan Vid (2006)

Sarah Trombley, Visions and Revisions: Fanvids and Fair Use (.pdf), 25 Cardozo Arts & Ent. J. 647 (2008)

Rebecca Tushnet, User-Generated Discontent: Transformation in Practice (.pdf), 31 COLUM. J.L. & ARTS 110 (2008)

And don’t forget Fanlore: one stop shopping for trying to explain to people what fannish things mean!