Is it art ... or appropriation? Creativity or theft?
Take a look at the web's latest phenom, Kutiman, who makes music videos by mashing up and remixing short clips of other people's YouTube videos.
Daniel Sinker, a member of the journalism faculty at Columbia College in Chicago, comes down on the side of art. So do I.
In a recent Huffington Post piece, Sinker said, "If your reaction to this crate of magic is 'Hm. I wonder how we'd go about suing someone who did this' ... instead of, 'Holy crap, clearly, this is the freaking future of entertainment,' it's probably time to put some ramen on your Visa and start making stuff up for your LinkedIn page."
Perhaps the Associated Press might want to consider taking that advice. Instead of acting like RIAA gestapo and suing Shepard Fairey for "copying" an AP photographer's campaign photo for his now-iconic Obama "Hope" poster, the AP might want to consider adopting similar techniques instead. Instead of regarding Fairey's poster as "a threat to journalism," the AP might want to lighten up and bask in the glow. After all, I doubt anyone would remember that photographer's name, or that photo, if it weren't for Fairey's poster.
I think Kutiman's music ... video ... whatever you want to call it ... is seriously cool and creative. But I also like Sinker's larger point ... that musicians and artists aren't the only ones who can take advantage of the proliferation of raw material on the web. He says journalists should be tapping into that mother lode of material too, instead of viewing the web as a threat.
Sinker advises journalists to "Be like Kutiman: use the millions of blog entries, photos, tweets, and videos that find themselves on the web every day to build something new."