Swiftly going West: Digital parody comes of age


I know my readership is “old” but most of you are not as old as I am. So that means you’re more than likely to have heard about the Kanye West/Taylor Swift incident a few days ago. I heard about it, found it at least mildly distasteful, despite Kanye’s apology; I was therefore glad to hear about Beyonce’s touch of class later.

But that’s not the point of this post. Why would I write about two people I don’t listen to, on a programme I don’t watch, and whose lives I have no interest in? Simple. I write because of this video:


Chris Messina tweeted and alerted me to this, a mash-up between Kanye West and Taylor Swift.

Stop there, just for a second. Shut your eyes and imagine. Imagine what will happen if the video goes viral. So-called rights holders crawling out of their shells and demanding recompense, when none is called for in a sensible copyright regime. Am I being sensationalist? I don’t think so. Just take a look at this article, brought to my attention by friend and colleague Kevin Marks.

Experiencing things by watching and hearing and reading. Learning from those experiences. Borrowing from the experiences you have. Letting your imagination run rampant and riotous. Using that imagination to praise, to teach, to lampoon, to savour alone, to share with all.

We have to allow the Matt Kammerers of this world to do their thing. Sampling from here and there in order to make a new thing. A new thing. Copyright law used to be reasonable for centuries, despite attempts to mutate it at critical stages: the inventions of the press, the radio, the copier, the tape, even the CD. Since the dawn of the digital age, attempts to enshrine stupidity in law have increased. Much of what passed for creativity and comment and parody and satire may not be possible in the future if the law is allowed to become more of an ass.

The current battles are really not about downloading or filesharing or mashing up. There is far too much evidence that the downloaders, filesharers and mashup makers are themselves the ones behind the massive growth in digital sales.

The battles have been about control. Control that allows owners of obsolete marketing and distribution systems to exert power on a new generation, because they can. Because we let them exert that power throughly poorly thought out law.

The battles are about control. Control that is alien to the very basis of the internet. Centralised and monolithic, able to criminalise a cohort in the twinkling of a cataracted eye.

The battles will be about control. Control of an entire generation and their right to their culture.

Guess what? Not much stands in the way. Except you and me.