Copyright law and mash-ups: A policy paper

Rimmer, Matthew (2010) Copyright law and mash-ups: A policy paper. Australian National University, College of Law, Canberra, A.C.T.


This report provides an analysis of the cultural, policy and legal implications of ‘mash-ups’. This study provides a short history of mash-ups, explaining how the current ‘remix culture’ builds upon a range of creative antecedents and cultural traditions, which valorised appropriation, quotation, and transformation. It provides modern examples of mash-ups, such as sound recordings, musical works, film and artistic works, focusing on works seen on You Tube and other online applications. In particular, it considers -

  • Literary mash-ups of canonical texts, including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Wind Done Gone, After the Rain, and 60 Years Later;
  • Artistic mash-ups, highlighting the Obama Hope poster, the ‘Column’ case, and the competition for extending famous album covers;
  • Geographical mash-ups, most notably, the Google Australia bushfires map;
  • Musical mash-ups, such as The Grey Album and the work of Girl Talk;
  • Cinematic mash-ups, including remixes of There Will Be Blood and The Downfall; and

This survey provides an analysis of why mash-up culture is valuable. It highlights the range of aesthetic, political, comic, and commercial impulses behind the creation and the dissemination of mash-ups. This report highlights the tensions between copyright law and mash-ups in particular cultural sectors.

Second, this report emphasizes the importance of civil society institutions in promoting and defending mash-ups in both copyright litigation and policy debates. It provides a study of key organisations – including:

  • The Fair Use Project;
  • The Organization for Transformative Works;
  • Public Knowledge;
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation; and
  • The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

This report suggests that much can be learnt from this network of organisations in the United States. There is a dearth of comparable legal clinics, advocacy groups, and creative institutions in Australia. As a result, the public interest values of copyright law have only received weak, incidental support from defendant companies – such as Network Ten and IceTV – with other copyright agendas.

Third, this report canvasses a succinct model for legislative reform in respect of copyright law and mash-ups. It highlights:

  • The extent to which mash-ups are ‘tolerated uses’;
  • The conflicting judicial precedents on substantiality in Australia and the United States;
  • The debate over copyright exceptions relating to mash-ups and remixes;
  • The use of the take-down and notice system under the safe harbours regime by copyright owners in respect of mash-ups;
  • The impact of technological protection measures on mash-ups and remixes;
  • The possibility of statutory licensing in respect of mash-ups;
  • The use of Creative Commons licences;
  • The impact of moral rights protection upon mash-ups;
  • The interaction between economic and moral rights under copyright law; and
  • Questions of copyright law, freedom of expression, and political mash-ups.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 91166
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Keywords: Copyright Law, Mash-Ups, The Creative Commons, Fair Use, Statutory Licensing, Moral Rights, Remix Culture, Technological Protection Measures
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Intellectual Property Law (180115)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 Matthew Rimmer
Deposited On: 11 Dec 2015 00:28
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2015 02:27

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