Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lazy Sunday #159: Everything Is A Remix


Last Sunday's 53rd Annual Grammy Awards spawned several "copycat" controversies. Some claimed that Cee Lo Green had copied the costume Elton John wore while playing "Crocodile Rock" on "The Muppet Show" in 1978.

Others whined that Lady Gaga's new hit "Born This Way" reminded them a whole lot of Madonna's "Express Yourself".


La Gaga poo-poohed such comparisons by pointing out that her song had arrived in an "immaculate conception" written from start to finish in less than ten minutes -- negating any chance of imitation since it takes four whole minutes to even get through "Express Yourself" to begin with.

Meanwhile still others insisted that Lady Antebellum's winning Song of the Year, "Need You Now" was almost identical to The Alan Parsons' Project's hit "Eye in the Sky" from the Grammy nominated 1982 album of the same name.

However, as one musicologist familiar with musical plagiarism lawsuits pointed out, "These songs are strikingly similar in production, arrangement, and groove. The first five notes and 2 chords of the chorus are the only similarity, and they're not identical."

Almost nobody remarked on how much the "53rd Annual Grammy Awards" resembled the "52nd Annual" and "51st Annual" Grammies, The Tonys, The Emmys, The Oscars and whatever ceremonies take place bi-weekly on MTV.

We live in a world where half the movies in the multiplex are sequels, pro hockey mascots wear the same capes and tights as Marvel Superheroes and Dane Cook has a comedy career. As the man said, "Amateurs copy, professionals steal" -- and I'd tell you who that man was but there are about 50 guys claiming the title.

As the debate over copyright law rages in Canada, with all kinds of people trying to define WHO gets to use WHAT and HOW they can mash, repurpose or just copy it; it might be worthwhile to take a step back and contemplate how much of what we think is original was copied in the first place.

Filmmaker Kirby Ferguson has embarked on just such an exploration, designing a four-part series of short films (perhaps to avoid being accused of copying the standard trilogy format) and releasing each once he's raised enough money to cover its cost through his website.

Part One of "Everything is a Remix" concentrates on music and you might want to avoid it if you're a Led Zeppelin fan or just hold a special place in the memory of your formative years for "Stairway to Heaven".

Part Three is currently under construction, due to be released in the Spring.

Part Two, which deals with motion pictures, is appended below. Don't click off when the credits roll because there's a whole lot more after that and even more at the filmmaker's website.

This is a great series for everyone interested in the boundaries of ownership, copyright or even what gets defined as "original".

Enjoy Your Sunday.

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