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Phoebe Gilmore

Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez

The Extinction of Intellectual Property


Perhaps one of the most prestigious authors in our culture is 15th and 16th century
author William Shakespeare, who wrote such classic works of literature as Romeo and
Juliet and Hamlet. These titles are easily recognizable, but do you recognize the names
of Arthur Brooke who wrote The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet or Saxo
Grammaticus who wrote History of the Danes? Probably not. Though these names are
not associated with such popularized works of literature as Romeo and Julie and Hamlet,
they are actually the inspiration behind Shakespeares famous works. His plots for these
stories were not innovativehis interpretations of the texts were.
Though copyright laws did not exist in Shakespearian times, they were enacted in
the late 18th century. The Patent Act of 1790 is an Art to promote the progress of useful
Arts. Its main purpose is to allow artists to control how others use and repurpose their
works, giving them credit where due, while also allowing society to advance as a whole
through the use of the arts. But the regulation of remixes as imposed by this act can
prove difficult and obsolete, especially in an era of Internet parodies and mashups.
Copyright law, including the Patent Act of 1790, is counterintuitive in itselfhow can we
make progress with laws and guidelines preventing us from doing so?
In his book Against Intellectual Property, lawyer Stephan Kinsella argues that
copyright actually decreases the spread of intellectual ideas because it prevents people
from what they want to say, from copying, learning, sharing, remixing. Many people
have valid reasons for remixing an original work but are unable to jump through all of the

Phoebe Gilmore
Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez
necessary hoops to prevent legal action from the artist. Because of this, new media is left
uncreated just because people do not want to be sued.
Judging copyright laws as outdated, it becomes apparent everything is a remix.
Human culture is always derivative, according to Daphne Keller in her article The
Musician as Thief: Digital Culture and Copyright Law. Ideas are often reimagined off
of existing ideas or works, and though the new work may be viewed as an original, it is
mostly remix. Creativity is often not intrinsicit is inspired.
Good artists copy. Great artists steal. Apple cofounder Steve Jobs cited this
Pablo Picasso quote in a 1996 interview, joking that, we have always been shameless
about stealing great ideas. But Jobs became a bit more defensive about people stealing
each others ideas when Android started borrowing ideas from Apple. In a 2010
interview, Jobs said that, Im going to destroy Android because its a stolen product. Im
willing to go thermonuclear war on this. He was fine with the idea of remixuntil his
own ideas were remixed.
Jobs also has a 28 page long software patent stating the Apple owns the slide to
unlock feature on smartphones and claimed that his company was the first to create
multi-touch technology, even though a bankrupt Swedish company actually came up with
this technology first.
The thing is, a lot of the time the second company to debut a new technology has
an advantage over the first company to do so. As explained by filmmaker Kirby
Ferguson, Let's say a guy invents a better light bulb. His price needs to cover not just
the manufacturing costs but also the costs of inventing the thing in the first place. Let's

Phoebe Gilmore
Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez
say a competitor starts manufacturing a copy. The competitor doesn't need to cover those
development costs, so his version can be cheaper.
But there are also disadvantages to being a competitor. Many patents do not
cover an idea or technology as a whole but rather small bits and pieces that make up that
idea or technology, much to the disservice of the original intent of progress established by
the Patent Act of 1790. As Ferguson said, Its in these small details where we can see
patent law clearly contradicting its intent.
With all of these things in mind, it becomes apparent that traditional innovation is
not exactly a commodity or the most effective way to produce media. Often times, artists
can work more productively by leveraging themselves off of the work of previous artists
than by coming up with new inventions altogether. Even the great Henry Ford said, I
invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom
were centuries of workProgress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready
and then it is inevitable.
But patent laws go against the idea that technologies are built upon each other so
that societal technological advancement happens in a cohesive manner. Technology
cannot be viewed in the same light as property, though it is often deemed intellectual
property. Property is personaltechnological knowledge should be public. Building
upon another persons ideas for new technology is not synonymous to going into
someones yard and stealing their bike. All of society is working towards common
technological goals, and it is counterproductive to keep the elements of such technologies
behind closed doors for only certain people to access.

Phoebe Gilmore
Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez
And without access to other peoples works and ideas, less and less new media
will be produced. Jonathan Lethem discusses this in his article The Ecstasy of
Influence: A Plagiarism. He says that, Finding ones voice isnt just an emptying an
purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations,
communities and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act
never experienced.
With copyright laws that make television networks pay around two million dollars
a year to use the song Happy Birthday since it was patented by Warner Brothers in
1998, it can be seen that these laws often overstep their boundaries and do not allow
artists do what they do best: create. Remix is not the same as plagiarism because it is
inherently different. Just like Shakespeare, every new artist interprets a piece of media in
a new way. The work may not be new in itself, but the idea behind the work is.
Letham said, Todaywe can eat Tex-Mex with chopsticks while listening to
reggae and watching a YouTube rebroadcasting of the Berlin Walls falli.e.damn
near everything presents itself as familiar.
Lethams point here is an interesting one to highlight how out of date copyright
laws are in America. In 1790 when the Patent Act came out, people did not have
YouTube channels, write fan fiction, or do audio editing. People today can connect with
others all over the world, and the Internet offers immediate access to any and all previous
produced media. With these international connections and trendy types of works now
popularized in America, patent and copyright law is not as relevant as it might have been
in the 18th century. The idea behind such laws is a strong oneto give credit where

Phoebe Gilmore
Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez
credit is due. But when the lust for credit supersedes the lust for innovation and new
media, the original intent of the Pantent Act of 1790 to promote the progress of useful
Artsis not honored.
Copyright and patent laws in America have become more of an annoyance than a
help. With so much media already produced in this country, every new production will
have at least some fundamental similarities to one or more predecessors. The best
solution to this problem would be to adapt these patent and copyright laws to better
service society. It must also be understood that plagiarism is not equivalent to remix.
Repurposing a work, as shown by the early writings of Shakespeare, can actually
offer a different meaning from an original and breathe new life into the work. Without
remix, such works as those of Shakespeare would not even exist. The key, as stated by
Jean-Luc Godard is that, Its not where you take things fromits where you take them
to.

Phoebe Gilmore
Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez

Bibliography
"A Quote by Jim Jarmusch." Goodreads. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
Bugbee, Bruce Willis. Genesis of American Patent and Copyright Law. Washington:
Public Affairs, 1967. Print.
Farrell, Nick. "Apple Didn't Invent "Slide to Unlock." Fudzilla, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 22
Apr. 2016.
Keller, Daphne. "The Musician as Thief: Digital Culture and Copyright Law." Sound
Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. By DJ Spooky That Subliminal
Kid. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. Print.
Lethem, Jonathan. "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism." Sound Unbound: Sampling
Digital Music and Culture. By DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid. Cambridge, MA:
MIT, 2008. Print.
Marine, Joe. "Kirby Ferguson on Creativity: Nothing Is Original, Everything Is a Remix.
But Does It Really Matter?" No Film School. No Film School, 21 Aug. 2012.
Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
"Shakespeare's Sources for Romeo and Juliet: Arthur Brooke, Matteo Bandello."
Shakespeare's Sources for Romeo and Juliet: Arthur Brooke, Matteo Bandello. 18
May 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
Stossel, John. "Owning Ideas-An Outdated Idea?" Reason.com. Reason, 28 Jan. 2015.
Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Phoebe Gilmore
Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez

Letter of Reflection
When I first signed up for this course, I was not particularly excited. I am not
really technologically savvy, so I was not sure that I would be able to do well in the class.
But I need this course for my major, so I signed up for it anyway.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much the material of the course tied into my
actual areas of interest. I liked learning things about world building and remix culture
especially because both really sparked my interest and made me think of things that I can
write about for other classes. I definitely did not expect to be into anything we learned
aboutI basically assumed that the whole class would just be about video games. The
interplay of storytelling and technology was a really cool concept to me.
There were a few things that I wished we had focused more or less on in the
course. I liked the idea of writing a story in a world created by the class, but the
assignment felt rushed. I think that maybe if that assignment was incorporated into the
final that it might have been better so that the world built could be more detailed and
cohesive. I also really enjoyed the audio editing portion but it only happened for one
class. While a remix was part of our final project, I think that more time spent in class
learning the software would have been helpful.
I have put in my best work in this course, regardless of its relevance to me. I
think that by doing so, I got a lot out of it and learned things that I wouldnt have had I
given minimal effort.

Phoebe Gilmore
Final Paper
Narrative & Technology
Adriana Ramirez
Overall, the course was not quite what I expected. While video games were a
large part of the discussion, they were not always the sole focus and I liked that. I

learned a lot about storytelling in the course, which will prove extremely valuable in my
future writing.