Sunday, September 20, 2009

What do Girl Talk and Disney have in common?

The first time I heard Girl Talk, a mash-up musician, I instantly fell in love with the dance party inducing music, which samples everything from current top pop songs, hip-hop, 1980s pop, 1990s alternative, and classic rock – and many times, all in one song. Remixing Nirvana, Young Jeezy, Lil’ Wayne, Elton John, and Santana in one song is not atypical of Girl Talk’s music. Conveniently, my appreciation for Girl Talk also coincided with my Introduction to Intellectual Property class and copyright laws and questioning the legality. While Girl Talk may hope to avoid lawsuits through using fair use as a defense, seeing that Girl Talk didn’t get permission to sample the 300 songs in his latest “Feed the Animals” album, it comes as no surprise that NYTimes suggested that his music was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Of course then, when my friend recently told me to watch RiP! A Remix Manifesto, a film by Brett Gaylor concerning copyright law and remixing media by focusing on Girl Talk, I was immediately enthralled. Gaylor criticizes current copyright laws for inhibiting the production of new forms of art while showing that most works are derived, sample, and reference prior art. He then criticizes Disney, who is at the forefront of promoting further restrictions on copyright laws for the protection of their works, because of their own appropriation of stories, images, and music from other works. Disney not only pushed for copyright law to extend the duration of protection, but as the film shows, has also sent numerous seize and desist letters to places such as children's nurseries for having images of Disney characters on their walls.

Days after watching RiP!, I found it extremely ironic when I read an article concerning a lawsuit against Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney by a Norwegian lamp maker, Luxo AS. [Bloomberg] Luxo AS brought a copyright infringement claim against Pixar for its hopping desk lamp character. Luxo AS raises a concern that a Pixar lamp packaged with a Disney DVD would confuse customers and dilute the market. While Pixar’s founder admits to have been inspired by his own Luxo lamp, it will be interesting to see how Disney and Pixar will be combating copyright infringement laws that they so adamantly encouraged and sought to enforce.

Although I'm quite positive this is only one of many of infringement suits against Disney, perhaps it'll serve as a rude awakening that the current copyright laws do not adequately protect nor promote art and creativity, which was its original purported purpose.

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  1. Unfortunately, Disney will not be rudely awoken by the Luxo lawsuit. I'm afraid that the appreciation of irony is not a very strong characteristic amongst rights holders.

  2. Hi Ann,

    Sorry - me again. But also read Rory's post criticizing IP oweners. What's the middle ground (thinking both legally, and economically ... because the suit would not be sustained unless Luxo could make a valid quantifiable argument that they are being - or will be - economically damaged. am i off there?)?

    I have to excuse myself if I don't have basic IP knowledge here, but why it doesn't it work like an academic paper?

    Seriously - I can't take a little from source A, and a little from source B, to make new thing C, and just give a citation? When do I cross the line that I need a license or other IP right grant (is it a profit thing?)?


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