Copyright: A War on Ekphrasticism?

I regret heavily the fact that I waiting so long to write this blog post, because it means that what I wanted to write about was stolen by Christina Joell; and for copyright reasons, I didn’t want to remix her blog post. See what I did there? That said, Todrick Hall is awesome and I applaud Christina for thinking of the Wizard of Ahhs for this remix post.

For years, people have been sharing and remixing works; and works have been remixed much more frequently than any of us ever realize. This is incredibly noticeable to any cinemaphile who would watch American Dad or Family Guy or a show of that sort and follow along their plots. This is because comedy is by nature ekphrastic. It responds to something and uses bits and pieces of other things as part of itself, but comedy is just one example. All genres take from other genres and piece together parts of things that do not belong solely to the creator, creatively speaking. This is the grey area; the area where the line is blurred and ownership becomes in some ways impossible to note.

While ekphrasticism has existed for years, we have only recently found ourselves in a society that sees this as a crime. Lessig in his introduction gives a perfect example of this when discussing the court case Stephanie Lenz had to go through to keep a video of her baby dancing to Prince up online. Her video hardly had Prince playing loud enough or in good enough quality to be copyrighted, and the purpose of the video was not to redistribute Prince’s music, but it was still viewed by the owners of the rights to the original work as an attack on the copyright.

Very similarly, news shows on the internet such as that run by Philip Defranco on YouTube are flagged all the time with copyright claims for showing snippets and clips of videos and movies as part of his daily news show, yet the intention of his showing the content is not to take it and use it as his own, but to advertise it, or inform the public of the actions of an individual. Overall, I think the pieces we read today tell us something we already knew: copyright law is in no way written in stone. It is in fact, much more complicated than any of us make it out to be since we as humans seek to add rhetorically and through remixology to the work of others. We yearn for ekphrasis, and ekphrasis depending on how it is done, goes against copyright claims.