Brooklyn Law School’s BLIP clinic teaches the art of the (legal) remix

August 2, 2012 By Alex O’Sullivan-Pierce, For Brooklyn Daily Eagle Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The saying is, “art imitates life,” but when art imitates other art, conflicts over ownership ensue, and intellectual property laws are left to sort out the mess.

Most people know that the purpose of United States copyright law is to protect an individual artist’s ability to reap the financial rewards of their creative labor. What is sometimes lost amid the many stories of monetary damages for copyright infringement is the other purpose of intellectual property law, which is to preserve the public’s liberty to interact with original works and use them to create new, transformative art.

This phenomenon inspired BLIP, Brooklyn Law School’s Incubator and Policy Clinic, to develop a new curriculum aimed at teaching high school students about fair use, the lesser-known side of copyright law.

Aptly named CREATE, for Creative Rights Empowerment Achieved Through Education, the program began in the spring of 2011 as an in-house BLIP project and continued into this summer with the assistance of a grant from the New York State Bar Association.

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This unique effort is geared specifically towards teaching tech-savvy high school students how to legally make remixes and mashups of their favorite art and online media. As high-school-aged students rapidly gain expertise and access to new technologies, the potential for infringement has increased dramatically.

But with this expanded access and expertise, folks at BLIP believe that there is an equally huge potential for a renaissance of digital media and transformative art.

While the stiff penalties for running afoul of copyright law have been well publicized, the doctrine of fair use is not nearly as well known to the general public. This is why the clinicians at Brooklyn Law School felt a need to open a discourse about the boundaries of copyright.

BLIP’s founder and director Professor Jonathan Askin explains, “Copyright doesn’t mean that you can’t use other people’s material. Every artist relies on the genius that preceded it. Yet, there’s a fear among teachers and students that if they use anyone else’s material they are somehow violating copyright.

“Transformative art, mash-ups, and remixes mean that you should be allowed to use other people’s material but in transformative, novel ways. That’s the lesson we are hoping to instill in the next generation of artists.”

Charles Ernest Stanley, a BLIP clinician and the recipient of the New York State Bar Association fellowship, took the lead on CREATE this summer where he worked to develop an informative and creative experience that would enrich students’ understanding of fair use and the robust public domain available to the next generation of artists.

According to Stanley, “Transformative art has been essential to the development of the rich culture that we have today. Unfortunately confusion and fear over copyright laws is quickly eroding the ability of artists to explore their creativity.”

Stanley is now in the process of pitching the curriculum, which incorporates the famous collages of Andy Warhol and pop music mashups by Girl Talk, to schools across the city. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about CREATE, email [email protected].

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