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The clock “Tik Tok”s on the remix culture

It seems a deluge of examples have come to the fore in the last few days of what Professor Lawrence Lessig calls the Remix culture. Zeitgeist examined the recent parodies / mashups of the brand hijacking of Nike’s enormously popular “Write the Future” campaign as well as the intellectual property implications behind them recently. Last month, The Simpsons, now in it’s 22nd year of broadcasting, opened one episode in a montage using Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” as the background music (see above).

As evinced by the below video, the song clearly made an impact in Israel as well, tasteful or otherwise as you may think it. It shows the power of popular culture to permeate through all levels of society, as well as the inherently democratic nature of content creation today, from hit TV shows to amateur – very amateur – dancing soldiers. They are fun videos but pose a serious question; how are brands or products affected when they are co-opted by something else that gives them an altogether different meaning? The dialectics involved can lead to poor associations. St. George’s flag is currently seen as the banner of xenophobic nationalists in England, and Hitler casts a perpetual shadow over Wagner’s wonderful music. Now, more than ever, releasing content into the public domain means you are immediately relinquishing control over the meaning it may take on in the future.

Nike’s “Future” Re-written

The remix and mashup are emblematic of the pluralistic society we live in today. Renowned professor Lawrence Lessig would have it no other way, as he points out in his book, ‘Remix’. Every time a company lays itself on the line by broadcasting its intellectual property, it submits itself to reinterpretation by a society who through the use of cheap, simple technology, can easily reinterpret the original content, and under claims of educational or critical purposes, the new content is legal under terms of fair use. The above, reworked Nike ad is was a great example, but has since been taken down due to claims of intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement. An Oriental homage of Nike’s “Write the Future” can be seen above.

Yesterday’s insightful op-ed in the FT (which mentions the great Lessig), calls the implementation of the current 95-year copyright limit “a terrible strategic blunder”, advocating instead for shorter but better regulated terms. Over-protective IPR stifles innovation, and is unnecessary since “most holders of copyright gain all the money from a work they will ever do within five or 10 years and the rest of the term is like a one-in-a-million lottery ticket for the rare artist such as J.K. Rowling”.

Of Pirates and Market Correction

October 1, 2009 1 comment

From the October Zeitgeist…

Of Pirates and Market Correction
The term “Intellectual Property Rights” [IPR] is one of the most bandied‐about and misunderstood terms in the world of technology and media today. Its lack of concrete perception coincides neatly with the lack of knowledge of what piracy really means and what its roots are. Both terms are fundamentally important to those who create, produce and distribute content, which WPP companies do a fair bit of. Check out Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture” for more.

As The Economist notes, “Some agencies have tired of coming up with clever ideas for clients without winning a share of the resulting revenues.” Consequently, agencies have begun developing their own IP, whereby they create brands for a client and then own part or all of the idea, benefitting from any future profits that brand may reap. What insights though can we gain from those who infringe IPR?

The FT writes, “In removing the cost of distribution, the internet has proved itself a perfect piracy incubator and has made it harder for those involved to be prosecuted successfully.” The New York Times review of “Ripped” castigates indolent music industry execs who presided over their own downfall. Figures on piracy are questionable. The MPA believes piracy costs film studios around $6b p.a. No consideration is given to sampling or network effects. Its attempts to put wayward teens and twenty‐somethings off with a number of campaigns, ranging from anachronistic to awful, spawn creative parodies aplenty.

Some sort of market correction was indeed necessary in the film and music retail market. Charging £16 per CD and £20 per DVD was unsustainable, especially in a recession. Rampant downloading by millions has served to correct this inequality, as noted in an Ogilvy blog. Secondly, p2p networks – versus visiting Blockbuster to rent a movie that turns out to be sold out – brought convenience. Downloading a song in a minute and a film in an hour is a very attractive proposition; years passed before the arrival of legal alternatives – Hulu, iTunes, et al. – that are now taking off, and slowing the rate of illegal downloads.

What marketing insight does the act of piracy offer us? BBC News reported that within hours of the new Harry Potter film’s release, pirated copies were selling for £3 in car boot sales. If the insight for Napster was not just music for free but music obtained easily, might this indicate a growing desire for product availability across multiple platforms simultaneously? Disney CEO Bob Iger mooted such a move back in 2005.

Even before a spell of fining and imprisoning filesharers, it should have been obvious that punishing consumers does not work, nor heel‐dragging. Neither will endear people to a brand.