Now that we can edit video on commodity hardware with free tools, we can all celebrate and test the bounds of fair use. One striking example is the famous video from A Ha’s “Take On Me” mixed with new lyrics that narrate the action in the video:
I wonder whether this remix is entertaining to people who don’t fondly remember watching the original on MTv in the 80s. It’s a bit of a meta joke, and I’m not sure how much of its value is simply riding on nostalgia, the catchy melody, and the awesome cartoon. I know some copyright experts who would say too little of the remix’s appeal can be attributed to its most recent auteur and that this robs the remix of transformative force.
I, of course, disagree. There is art there. Sure, it’s a bit conceptual, but there’s some real art there— a cultural moment, reraised, cast in a new light and presented for new and old audiences. Any theory of fair use that doesn’t free this kind of breezy, low-stakes interplay must be too restrictive. I don’t like to think about what kind of poverty results when nobody is allowed to quote culture in reacting to it, commenting on it and sharing it.