RiP: A Remix Manifesto is an Open Source documentary film written and directed by Canadian cultural activist Brett Gaylor. The film focuses on copyright and the fight between the creative minority and corporate majority. It discusses the pitfalls of traditional approaches to intellectual property protection in the digital era through the eyes of some key Copyleft revolutionaries such as remix poster boy GirlTalk (Gregg Gillis) and Creative Commons creator Lawrence Lessig. Gaylor’s manifesto is broken into 4 ‘truths’: 1. Culture always builds on the past; 2. The past always tries to control the future; 3. Our future is becoming less free; and 4. To build free societies, you must limit the control of the past. He uses these to shape and create a compelling argument for the reconsideration of Copyright and the ‘reclaiming’ of contemporary digital culture.
RiP was created as a ‘participatory media experiment’ , in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada and EyeSteelFilm. Since it’s international debut at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam in November 2008, it has gained worldwide attention for its fast editing, eye-grabbing graphics and witty narration. Gaylor went on to win his first award at the IDFA for Audience Choice, and has since continued to captivate theatrical audiences in Europe, Canada, North America, and the international online community.
Gaylor admits it was a fine balancing act in developing a business model for the distribution and sale of the film. While a fast and simultaneous global online release would have been ideal, he was forced to consider the commercial realities of his business partners. Having sold the production and worldwide distribution rights of the film to the National Film Board of Canada, Gaylor had to ensure he didn’t undercut their revenue from selling distribution rights. This meant that the documentary was not made available in its entirety for digital download until a period of time after its theatrical and television distribution. To compromise with Gaylor’s ideal immediate release, the National Film Board of Canada released a chaptered version on its website during its distribution, with “calls to action” embedded in each chapter so that remixers around the world could begin working on the film.
Once the negotiated period for distribution had lapsed, Gaylor and his producers agreed to ‘sell’ the documentary download at no fixed price. He explains, “We knew the film would appear on file-sharing networks immediately and we knew the audience for the film wanted and expected it to be online. So knowing that, we wanted there to be a method for those who wanted to pay to do so.” This business model has been successfully adopted across a wide variety of online content providers (e.g. Radiohead). It works by establishing a core, passionate audience or fan base, and then giving them an incentive to buy and ‘connect’ with the content on a deeper level. Here, the website and the documentary work together to establish this incentive by declaring that any profits made will go straight back into the ‘Copyleft’ movement. Regardless of the past successes of this business model, however, Gaylor admits he has a number of sceptics who question its application to this documentary, which can easily be ripped from the internet for free. He’s quick to rebut them, stating “it’s not piracy I need to be afraid of; it’s obscurity… that’s why I was very insistent that my film be released under Creative Commons license, and that it be free to travel through those networks.” Thus he has made exposure the key goal underpinning his business model, from which profits will flow indirectly.
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