What is creativity? We think of creativity as the act of creating something new from our imagination. But is this definition wide enough? What about remixes? What about the people that see others’ works and reimagine them differently? I would define that as a creative act, but copyright law says otherwise.
We are all influenced by others, but where is the line of what is inspiration and what is stealing someone else’s work? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a copyright as “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” Under this definition, we are not allowed to use any piece of another’s work. While copyrights were created to protect artistic works, they now seem to hinder artists’ creative processes out of fear of copyright infringement.
In an article for Catapult about copyrights inhibiting creativity, the IP Australia director, Ian Heath, states, “The system is designed to promote innovation, but the consequence of granting a limited term monopoly [as is done in both patents and copyright] is that restrictions are put on what others can do.”
Another issue with the restrictive copyright law is that artists could be hiding their works because they have remixed someone else’s ideas into a new piece of art. There is an entire underground scene of remix musicians that cannot openly display their work because they use pieces of other musicians’ songs. I would say that these works are still creative and require unique and abstract thinking, but the law does not agree.
While I do believe that copyrights are necessary to prohibit people from directly copying a person’s work, there needs to be reform concerning the remixing issue. This issue runs deeper than even just our personal sense of ownership of our work, and we need to look to the Bible for further explanations. Ecclesiastes 1:9 states, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” This verse is fascinating because it calls into question our creative capabilities. Is anything we make truly our own then? This would make it seem that it is not.
Scripture tells us time and time again about how God is the Ultimate Creator, and that He has created us in His image. What a beautiful thought. The God that created everything in existence made us as well. But if God created everything on earth, wouldn’t that make everything we create a remix of what God has already done?
I look at the people, places, and things that inspire me, and it makes me wonder who inspired them? I draw a large amount of my inspiration from nature, which God directly created. Even though I create visual works, I also pull inspiration from authors such as Stephen Chbosky and J.K. Rowling. But who inspires them? Stephen Chbosky proudly declares that he is influenced by early-mid twentieth century authors such as J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Tennessee Williams. But then what about those people? Who inspired them? Even the celebrities of creative masterpieces even drew inspiration from somewhere.
I believe that we can lead all creativity back to God because His creativity is woven into everything, including us. I even believe that people can reflect God even if they are not following Him. But where does this leave us on the issue of copyrights? If we reimagine others’ concepts and ideas into a new piece of art, then I do not think that it should be held under copyright law. As artists, we need legal protection for our works to insure that no one directly copies it, but I do not think that artistic remixes should fall under that category. We all draw influence and inspiration from each other, so we should be allowed to display remixes without legal issues.