Tony Curzon Price’s article “iCommons for beginners” provides an excellent overview of US copyright, Creative Commons, and GPL licensing for software and other published works. It defines some words that you might have read or heard tossed around in the context of intellectual property, but not been too sure about their definitions.

According to the article, a “remix” is:

the practice of taking a song and casting it in a new genre.

In contrast, a “mashup” is a creation which combines different intellectual property products in a new way. Again according to Tony’s article:

In pop culture, a voice track is combined from one song with an instrument track from another to create a new (possibly aesthetic) third (see Frank Zappa’s Xenochronies). In web culture, mashup is when the services from different internet sites are combined. For example, dudewheresmyusedcar allows me to find and map Aston Martins on auction in Silicon Valley by combining eBay auctions and Google maps.

Tony includes links to these and other examples in the original article. I have read a bit about President Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings to his fellow citizens in his speech that introduced the term “Military / Industrial Complex.” Tony introduces a similar idea but in the context of copyright and IP (intellectual property) writing:

The “Media Entertainment Complex” is militantly increasing the scope and duration of copyright and patent to such an extent that the normal methods and traditions of cultural production are threatened. The Disney Corporation, which has benefited hugely from remixing and mashing-up the folk tales of traditional cultures, is one of the most politically active in trying to stop anyone, ever, doing the same with its own cultural output.

iCommons is an organization which:

aims to establish a global commons – a worldwide system that allows people to use the internet to collaborate and access knowledge without the restraints of traditional copyright law.

The theme of the 2006 iCommons conference, coming up later this week, is “Share the past, create the future.” The program and speaker list looks impressive, hopefully some of the content will be shared as podcasts so those of us not attending can still tune in after the fact! 🙂

My TechEdge article from last year, “Creative Commons in K-12 Education,” addresses some of the concepts and issues Tony discusses in this article. I like his explanations of “remix” and “mashup,” however, and how these activities fit into 21st century digital culture and the landscape of intellectual property.

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