These days it seems like it is a given that people can and should consume as much culture as possible, remixing and remaking it as they see fit. In fact, we now argue that this is what thinkers have always done. The only differences are that now not only can we do it better and faster, we can record every combination and recombination. I don’t really have any objection to this. I like the thought that ideas are free and can marry and mesh into glorious new forms. I like doing it myself; it’s a rush.
But it also unnerves me. I think that it is right for there to be some form of copyright on ideas and works of art for the life of the artist. The ideal creator would still be magnanimous with what they have created, but ultimately the control should stay with them while they are alive. This is a pretty middle of the road position, but it feels really radical in today’s world of infinite remixes, mashups, and viral videos.
Ultimately it keeps coming back to one main question:
Isn’t what I make mine?
Yes yes, everything is made of many influences, cherry picked from what came before. Maybe creators don’t even make anything, but are simply at the right crossroads of thought at the right time. It doesn’t matter. What I make is mine. Even if there are many like it, even if all I am doing is putting new words to an old melody. My works will always be tied to my own, singular experience of being alive in the world. That is part of their context and to strip them of that takes away some of their meaning.
Everything is made up of other things, other ideas. But the maker should still get some say in how the work is used, if only for a little while.