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Artists & Media Makers Need Open Video

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Artists and media makers, to be successful, need to be able to be creative. They need to know that when they put together a piece of art, media, or a performance they will be able to share it with audiences without facing repercussions.

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Open video is a concept and a movement to ensure that artists and media makers have more opportunities for free expression and broader cultural engagement. It involves a leveling of the playing field that effectively empowers people to shape culture in media and in politics.

With the era of "free" (as Chris Anderson might say), many expect that they will be able to utilize certain technology and exchange art & media especially on the Internet without any restrictions. By actively ignoring the idea that copyright laws should be stringent and limit creativity, video is remixed, music is sampled and mixed into mashups, and "fair use" is utilized often to make it possible for artists and media makers to create without high budgets can spread art & media freely.

You might ask, why should artists or media makers fight for intellectual property laws that do not discourage participatory culture? How and why should video creation, editing, playback, video standards, and software standards be kept open for artists and media makers?

For one, a fight should be waged so that artists & media makers (who are not necessarily people pursuing art or media making as a career) can continue to create Downfall remix videos.

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What was first a German film on Traudi Junge, the final secretary for Adolf Hitler, that told of the dictator's final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII has now become part of a cultural phenomenon. It is a phenomenon that involves what has become known as the "Original bunker scene." And, people take this scene and they mix it and add their own subtitles.

So far, Hitler has been remixed to explode when the McMansion he was trying to flip is foreclosed, the band Oasis splits up, the Colts lose the Super Bowl, Sarah Palin resigns as governor, the Cubs fail to make it to the World Series (again), and, recently, the iPad is released and unimpressive to him.

Videos like this are covered by "fair use," a widely understood doctrine that, according to the Open Video Alliance, allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, and is essential for commentary, criticism, news reporting, remix, research, teaching and scholarship with video.

Paul Boutin, who writes about technology in a pop-culture context, details this "video mad lib" fad. He offers an explanation of how any person can create a Hitler bunker scene remix video. And, he details how trailers are being re-cut to seem like they are completely different movies that fit into a completely different genre (like making Mary Poppins into a "scarefest" or turning a Stephen King film into a "heartwarming family tale.")

Boutin makes a point of mentioning how remixing is covered by "fair use." He notes that one might be well within their right to us a portion of copyrighted material in a parody (and a person is), but copyright holders can remove or take down your video. In fact, Constantin Films had a dozen remixes taken down before it decided they should not try to stop this phenomenon that involved remixing a scene from a film they owned the rights to.

Constantin Films' decision is one that many other copyright holders should make when faced with "free culture" fads. Instead of trying to stop people, think of how a group of people using one scene could lead to your film blowing up in popularity. No doubt, thousands have probably rented Downfall since seeing him explode over the Cubs or Sarah Palin because they figured out what film this scene was coming from on IMDB, saw that it was receiving good reviews & high praise, and chose to watch the film.

Making a Hitler bunker scene video is one thing open video makes possible. Open video also can make it possible for citizens to control the personal technology they use when creating art & media. It can help preserve user privacy and act against censorship. And, it can promote universal accessibility to all information on the web, ensure that broadband Internet access is treated as a public necessity, and keep the Internet remains open with equal access for all users and is kept free from barriers to content that gatekeepers might institute to make huge profits.

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Society should treasure open video. Essentially, as corporations exact more control over political culture and elections in America, it is we the people who will need to step up to combat conversation which teaches us to favor the richest 1% along with the corporations that government is all too willing to provide welfare to.

It is we who will need to maintain the preservation and the evolution of open video so that we can make sharp comments on societal issues like this remix video from documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight, Trials of Henry Kissinger) does.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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