Rise of the Patent Troll: An "Everything is a Remix" Special Presentation

by Kirby Ferguson

This is Not a Conspiracy Theory has launched

by Kirby Ferguson

I'm very pleased -- and fairly relieved -- to announce that This is Not a Conspiracy Theory has officially launched. The first installment can be viewed for free at the link above. To see future episodes you will need to subscribe. Launch price is $12. The price will rise to $15 later.

This project has been my labor of love for the past couple years and I hope you will you enjoy it.

Everything is a Remix Case Study: The iPhone

by Kirby Ferguson

Brought to you by iStock by Getty Images

Written & Produced by Kirby Ferguson

Additional Research by Garrett Weinholtz

My next series, This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, will be launching soon. To be notified when it does, please sign up for the mailing list. You can even rid yourself of unwanted currency by pre-ordering now. You can also follow the series on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

The original four-part Everything is a Remix series can be seen here.

This video is not part five of Everything is a Remix, nor is it the beginning of a new series. It's a standalone video.

This video can also be viewed on YouTube.

iStock clips used:

vision008, 9626202
ErdemCetinkaya, 3399199
humbak, 12315406
Jaroslav74, 15905283
eyeidea, 13188669
dial-a-view, 5622380
carpinxo, 15663398
humbak, 14751033
Ton80Media, 21280733
nmlfd, 000020356654 / Vetta
yio, 24905314
morganl, 17089747
VikramRaghuvanshi, 22348598
Andromeda9001, 20576884

Soundsnaps, 00007723371
Spod, 4933546
sak12344, 9900437
Brilt, 30165764
mphillips007, 12014453
SirichaiAkkarapat, 27913862
Sensay, 9120830

Moving_Stills, 20508130
DaveVIII, 21652022
johnfs, 12281293

Other sources


Things are going to pick up

by Kirby Ferguson

Howdy folks.

Sorry for the long silence. I was very deep in development for my next project and also doing commission work for much of the summer. Anyway, new stuff is imminent. Here's what's coming soon. 

Two new Everything is a Remix videos will be coming out this year. These will be shorter, more streamlined videos that cover a particular topic. The first one will be about the iPhone. These videos were made possible by my friends at iStock. I've also done a three-part series for them about getting the most out of stock in video work.

If you wanted an Everything is a Remix t-shirt, you will soon have the chance. It only took a year-and-a-half!

My next video series, This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, will be launching on November 24. I premiered a rough cut of an excerpt at XOXO in Portland and the reception was very encouraging. After being in development so long, it was gratifying -- and relieving -- to see that I hadn't gone off the rails.

Unlike Remix, you will need to purchase This is Not a Conspiracy Theory. If you already know you want to subscribe and you missed the KickStarter campaign, you can even pre-order right now. For $12 you'll get the full  series via digital download. It will have no DRM, no regional limitations, and will be subtitled in multiple languages. DVDs and BluRays will be available later.

I'll be doing my first talk for This is Not a Conspiracy Theory  at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Nov. 2 - 4, and I'll also be at the Pop-up FODI in Melbourne right after that.

Everything is a Remix Part 4 Transcript

by Kirby in

The genes in our bodies can be traced back over three-and-a-half billion years to a single organism, Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor. As Luca reproduced, its genes copied and copied and copied and copied, sometimes with mistakes — they transformed. Over time this produced every one of the billions of species of life on earth. Some of these adopted sexual reproduction, combining the genes of individuals, and altogether, the best-adapted life forms prospered. This is evolution. Copy, transform and combine.

And culture evolves in a similar way, but the elements aren’t genes, they’re memes — ideas, behaviors, skills. Memes are copied, transformed, and combined. And the dominant ideas of our time are the memes that spread the most.

This is social evolution.

Copy, transform and combine. It's who we are, it’s how we live, and of course, it's how we create. Our new ideas evolve from the old ones.

But our system of law doesn't acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity. Instead, ideas are regarded as property, as unique and original lots with distinct boundaries.

But ideas aren't so tidy. They're layered, they’re interwoven, they're tangled. And when the system conflicts with the reality... the system starts to fail.


For almost our entire history ideas were free. The works of Shakespeare, Gutenberg, and Rembrandt could be openly copied and built upon. But the growing dominance of the market economy, where the products of our intellectual labors are bought and sold, produced an unfortunate side-effect.

Let’s say a guy invents a better light bulb. His price needs to cover not just the manufacturing cost, but also the cost of inventing the thing in the first place.

Now let's say a competitor starts manufacturing a copy of the invention. The competitor doesn't need to cover those development costs so his version can be cheaper.

The bottom line: original creations can’t compete with the price of copies.

In the United States the introduction of copyrights and patents was intended to address this imbalance. Copyrights covered media; patents covered inventions. Both aimed to encourage the creation and proliferation of new ideas by providing a brief and limited period of exclusivity, a period where no one else could copy your work. This gave creators a window in which to cover their investment and earn a profit. After that their work entered the public domain, where it could spread far and wide and be freely built upon.

And it was this that was the goal: a robust public domain, an affordable body of ideas, products, arts and entertainment available to all. The core belief was in the common good, what would benefit everyone.

But over time, the power of the market transformed this principle beyond recognition. Influential thinkers proposed that ideas are a form of property, and this conviction would eventually yield a new term… intellectual property.

This was a meme that would multiply wildly, thanks in part to a quirk of human psychology known as Loss Aversion.

Simply put, we hate losing what we've got. People tend to place a much higher value on losses than on gains. So the gains we get from copying the work of others don’t make a big impression, but when it’s our ideas being copied, we perceive this as a loss and we get territorial.

For instance, Disney made extensive use of the public domain. Stories like Snow White, Pinnochio and Alice in Wonderland were all taken from the public domain. But when it came time for the copyright of Disney’s early films to expire, they lobbied to have the term of copyright extended.

Artist Shepard Fairey has frequently used existing art in his work. This practice came to head when he was sued by the Associated Press for basing his famous Obama Hope poster on their photo. Nonetheless, when it was his imagery used in a piece by Baxter Orr, Fairey threatened to sue.

And lastly, Steve Jobs was sometimes boastful about Apple's history of copying.

But he harbored deep grudges against those who dared to copy Apple.

I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

When we copy we justify it. When others copy we vilify it. Most of us have no problem with copying... as long as we're the ones doing it.

So with a blind eye toward our own mimicry, and propelled by faith in markets and ownership, intellectual property swelled beyond its original scope with broader interpretations of existing laws, new legislation, new realms of coverage and alluring rewards.

In 1981 George Harrison lost a 1.5 million dollar case for “subconsciously” copying the doo-wop hit “He’s So Fine” in his ballad “My Sweet Lord.”

Prior to this plenty of songs sounded much more like other songs without ending up in court. Ray Charles created the prototype for soul music when he based "I Got a Woman" on the gospel song "It Must be Jesus."

Starting in the late nineties, a series of new copyright laws and regulations began to be introduced...

Titles: NET Act, 1997 DMCA, 1998 PRO-IP, 2008 The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008

...and many more are in the works.

Titles: Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) "Six Strikes Plan"

The most ambitious in scope are trade agreements. Because these are treaties, not laws, they can be negotiated in secret, with no public input and no congressional approval. In 2011 ACTA was signed by President Obama, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, currently being written in secret, aims to spread even stronger US-style protections around the world.

Titles: ACTA Signed by Canada, Australia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea. the EU.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement To be signed by: Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of North America, Russia and Asia

Of course, when the United States itself was a developing economy, it refused to sign treaties and had no protection for foreign authors. Charles Dickens famously complained about America's bustling book piracy market, calling it "a horrible thing that scoundrel-booksellers should grow rich."<