Auto-Tune the News

Auto-Tune the News #2: pirates. drugs. gay marriage.

Auto-Tune the News #3 has just been released. While it’s not as good as #1 or #2 (above), it’s still worth a laugh. Best if you have an understanding, if not an appreciation, of the tropes of both contemporary pop music (especially Kanye West) and American television news and politics.

(I originally intended a mention of this to be part of a piece stewing on Creative Commons. “Auto-Tune the News” is the sort of creative reinterpretation that makes me understand and support the philosophy behind the Creative Commons movement. However, I don’t think CC will ever work for photography. It’s hard to imagine what a remixed photograph looks like…. That’ll have to wait a bit.)

5 Responses to “Auto-Tune the News”

  1. Ian Aleksander Adams

    Really? I’d say 9/10ths of early internet memes are remixed photographs. from gif animations to lolcats to fark photoshop contests.

    • M. Scott Brauer

      @Ian Aleksander Adams,

      Yeah, I know what you’re getting at, and this is why I say my complaints with Creative Commons are still half-baked. I see two extremes of photo usage in internet memes: one like the lolcats which is a full picture with some text, and the other which is like worth1000’s photoshop contests. The first doesn’t feel like a remix to me; it would be equivalent to changing the caption below a photo a newspaper and calling it a new photo. The second would count as a remix, but often is completely unrecognizable as the original photo or, at least, makes up a very small part of the whole final photoshopped result. To me, this feels akin to quoting a passage from a book in a larger piece of writing and it feels like fair use. The sticky area is in between where Shephard Fairey’s Obama poster falls. The picture is obviously identifiable and the final usage is entirely the photo, but there have been significant changes. This might count as a remix, and it probably should, but Fairey argues it’s “fair use” which is already covered under current copyright law, and the AP argues it’s copyright infringement. The AP’s interpretation would be addressed by creative commons language. I shouldn’t have said I don’t know what a remixed photo looks like, exactly, but I don’t know whether slapping text on a full picture counts as a remix or if there needs to be some rule about what counts as a remix (i.e., the final product only counts as a remix if less than 50% of the original photo remains in the picture. But how is one to measure that, especially as regards the Fairey Obama poster?)

      But, what concerns me more about photography and creative commons is that most Creative Commons photo usage I’ve seen is just media companies looking for free pictures for an internet post. Story about colony collapse disorder? Go to flickr, find a bee picture, call it good. It degrades visual culture, undermining the credibility of other photography by encouraging both editors and consumers to view pictures as decoration for the words. It also seems to undermine the spirit of Creative Commons, which seems to be aimed at the creation of new material through piecemeal rearrangement of disparate creations. Take a snippet of video here, take another there, add in some audio from somewhere else, and you’ve got a new composition that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Simply sticking a full (cc-licensed) photo next to article on a blog post doesn’t seem to achieve this goal, but in my experience, that’s the majority of cc photo usage.

      The other major concern I have with Creative Commons is the distinction between commercial and non-commercial usage. Photojournalists and publishers have fought long and hard to keep editorial usage unencumbered by the legal restrictions of commercial usage. Photojournalists don’t need model releases to use pictures of people for editorial purposes. But, with CC licensing, it’s hard to decide whether a magazine or a newspaper or similar usage counts as commercial or non-commercial. If I were to use CC licensing, I would want to encourage individual artists to use my pictures for personal work, but not allow others to make money off of my work without me getting a cut. Naturally, I would choose a non-commercial CC license, but it’s hard to know whether magazines or newspapers could then use the pictures freely. I should hope not, because that would then cut into licensing revenue that I had previously received.

      • Ian Aleksander Adams

        @M. Scott Brauer:

        I totally understand your concerns about Creative Commons. When you’re talking about the legality of it, it does get a lot more complicated.

        Honestly, I was just remarking that a lot of the internet does revolve around photo based remixes. At least, I believe the word applies.

        In terms of art usage (which is what I take “non-commercial” to mean, even if the art is sold), almost every form of photo remix has been hashed and rehashed out since the 40s. You know, everything from wartime dada to prince and sherrie levine.

        And now, of course we have After Sherrie Levine on the net:

        And LolCats.

        Regardless of quality or social value arguments, it’s all obviously legal and can fall under artistic use.

        Now, reprinting photographs from flickr in a magazine without permission – something about that seems underhanded and I tend to think editorial use counts as commercial. Mainly just because a lot of editorial publications still don’t have respect for people who work on the internet, as you can still see the odd attribution to “Google images” or “flickr” as the byline. Which is bullshit, obviously.

        I think that the model release (not needing one) part of editorial is different than what CC Licensing is talking about. Just because it’s CC doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay for it if you’re reprinting it as editorial usage. And I hope to god people know that. They should, anyway.

        The weird thing, for me, is that CC is a little redundant. I don’t really need your permission to reuse your image in my art. I’ve always been able to do that. It’s got a long precedent.

        • M. Scott Brauer

          “The weird thing, for me, is that CC is a little redundant. I don’t really need your permission to reuse your image in my art. I’ve always been able to do that. It’s got a long precedent.”

          @Ian Aleksander Adams, I think that’s what I’m trying to get at. Remixing generally falls into fair use for parody/quoting/etc. (although it doesn’t in music, as in the recent DangerMouse controversy ending with him selling a blank cdr for fans to download the album and burn it themselves; similar to all sorts of DJs bootleg mixtapes released under the table because they couldn’t secure rights for short samples of songs used in their compositions) So if it’s fair use, why do we need to add CC onto it? The most clear need for CC, it seems to me, is when somebody wants to reproduce an entire photograph without remixing it. This seems to undermine what Creative Commons is about.

          I’m also wary of who’s pushing creative commons. Google has been a big donor to CC in the past, and they stand to gain a ton by eliminating the need to license material that they aggregate.

  2. Ian Aleksander Adams

    It’s true that google stands a lot to gain, but it’s possible we do too. I’m so torn on that, because I don’t want them to be able to profit indefinitely, but I really really really love being able to search images, find similar images, or use google books. I wish more books were totally available on there – I hate skimming for the one relevant section when I could just search full text.

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