The US Constitution authorizes Congress to create a patent and copyright system to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” The authors of the Constitution believed that an effective intellectual property system would encourage innovation and advancement. It is only recently that we have started to view the IP system as an entitlement to use the coercive power of the state to make a profit. Dr. Stephen Hilgartner says that the focus of the IP system has gone from encouraging innovation to controlling the use of protected property.
In my opinion, this transition is one of the reasons why we have overly protective patent and copyright laws–do we really need to grant a 75-year copyright to the owners of Battlefield Earth? To fix our misguided IP laws, we will have to return to viewing the patent and copyright system as a way to encourage innovation and stop viewing it as an entitlement system.
I think it is easy to see how patents promote new inventions: by disclosing the invention, other inventors learn new techniques and can build on that knowledge. In other words, science begets science. But it is not obvious how art begets art.
To illustrate how art begets art, I have collected some videos from YouTube. Once we begin to think of art as leading to more art, then I think we can start to design laws that promote progress rather than just enrich corporations.
This series of examples starts with the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop (23 years ago!), which includes a song called Axel F (or listen to a short clip). The song was a hit in the mid 80’s but was a joke by the 90’s.
Unrelated to the song, a Swedish guy recorded his impression of a small combustion-engine in the late 90’s and it showed up in various forms around the Internet. This one is probably the most famous and I think it is still funny.
Someone decided to combine the Axel F song with the Swedish car-impersonator and the result is Axel F as remixed by Crazy Frog. So, this art is the result of two prior pieces of art. Without the Axel F song or the Swedish guy’s funny noises, we wouldn’t have this video. In fact, there are a couple more layers to this artistic work. The Axel F song was commissioned by the Beverly Hills Cop movie producers (itself a piece of art) and the Crazy Frog video includes animation and cinema. This one simple video has many artistic contributors. It is an excellent example of art begetting art.
But, the plot thickens. Crazy Frog is marketed to kids, and the “Frog Brothers” made an awesome lip-sync of Axel F.
Obviously, the shorter brother is the love child of either Martin or Charlie Sheen.
So the movie lead to the song which lead to the remix (the song combined with the funny noises and the video) which lead to the lip synch. Art begetting art begetting art.
But, it gets even better, these guys made a parody of the Frog Brothers!
The parody was amazingly precise. Look at the two videos side-by-side.
Art begets art. This is important because art can connect different ethnicities and cultures.
Argentinean: (It looks like they were watching it in their garage with their friends and decided to record their own version. It is bad, but still funny. They guy in the yellow shirt is more emphatic during the middle part of the video, and the little guy pretends that he doesn’t know the words, but he nails most of the “bing bing”s.)
Russian: (Not as good as 15-years later, but it is still pretty good. I wish they would rotate the camera!)
Canadian: (Not bad. The tall guy has watched it a lot. The short guy has to watch the screen and imitate it.)
Icelandic: (They have their own interpretation. It’s the tattooed, punk version.)
These Norwegians didn’t even bother to put the music in. They are watching it on the computer and mimicking the original. (They also add guns and sex. My property professor once said that all lawsuits are about money or sex. I wonder if this is a related concept.)
British: (They add a butter knife and plastic machine gun. There is nothing quite like two teenage girls imitating crazy frog brothers while licking a butter knife.)
Girls gone froggy. (One of them falls down and runs into the light–too funny.)
Another good parody but with sisters.
Bearded guys: (The black shirt considers himself a serious actor. I think he is in a Weezer cover-band, IT department, or both.)
I don’t even know what to call this. It’s not exactly a parody. This guy loaded the Frog Brothers into his dance simulation game and played it. (Notice that he has over 2300 combinations and he gets fantastic or excellent each time. He has played this video a lot!)
The authors of this next video say that it is “[a] tribute to you Crazy Frog Bros. You two have made such an impact on our lives.”
The last video proves my point. This series of artwork had an impact on these kids and it leads them to make their own art. Art begets art. We need to stop thinking of the copyright system as an entitlement of property rights and go back to designing laws that promote the progress of the arts. Bing Bing.