After a gut-wrenching day of presentations, Kirby Ferguson came onto the XOXO stage last night to share a 5th Anniversary screening of his wonderful film series Everything is a Remix. It still shines.

Ferguson described himself as fundamentally a researcher; but his films achieve much more than merely sharing his research. They make a subtle and important rhetorical critique: when we wax romantic about creative genius, we make bad policy.

The film series itself is a potent remix of a point James Boyle made back in his 1997 book — Shaman’s, Software, and Spleen. They both isolate two very different justifications for copyright (and other “intellectual property”): copyright as a recognition of creative genius (romantic) versus copyright as a way to make creative work marketable (practical).

If we talk (and thus, think) in the romantic mode, we’ll dwell on creative work as sacred, discount the sources that it builds upon, and make dumb rules. E.g. grant legal protections that starve the next generation of sources for creative expression.

If you haven’t seen the films yet, go watch them. Ferguson packages this argument beautifully, with captivating snippets and samples that show how remixing built so many of our cherished films and songs.

In a day filled with tales of duct-taped dreams and patched-together projects, it gave welcome clarity to the contours of our creative inheritance.