5: The Fails and Wins of Copyright via “Mr. West”

I love the range of examples given in the readings for what remix has come tomean and could come to mean in the future. Certainly, before this reading, I had only really thought of it in the context of music, though I had definitely associated it with copyright issues, which still seem to be a big problem in general.

A favorite remixed text of mine is a video adaptation of the poem “A Day at the Mall Reminds Me of America” by Sarah Blake, from her book of poetry entitled Mr. West. I love examining this because it is a remix of a remix. The entirety of Mr. West is about the life and music of Kanye West, and then the video is an adaptation of one of the poems (you can read some of the poems from the book here), many of which use Kanye’s lyrics. Another interesting point is that due to copyright laws, and such legal battles as those mentioned in the Lessig article, Blake was unable to actually use Kanye’s lyrics in her poems (because she was unable to afford the rights to license said lyrics for her publication). This resulted in her blacking out any copyrighted lines to give the impression of their existence but so as not to breach copyright law.

As Edwards points out, I enjoy thinking of remixing as “the rhetorical potential of transforming already-existing materials into new texts for new audiences,” (42). Blake’s poem remixes Kanye’s hip-hop for a new audience, and the person who made the video then remixes it further. Both things end up transformed through the use of difference types of media and artistic discretion and interpretation involved in putting it in a different form. This remix is a clear example of what is being done right and wrong with copyright, between Blake not being able to use the lyrics in her book influenced by them and another person being able to use Blake’s poem to create a video interpretation.

Word Count: 322

Works Cited

Edwards, D. W. “Framing Remix Rhetorically: Toward A Typology of Transformative Work.”

Lessig, Lawrence. Remix.