A Brief History of Creative Borrowing

Taken from The Creators Project

Nathaniel Ainley — Sep 16 2015

Screencaps via

Ariana Grande’s song with Mac Miller entitled, “The Way,” has been viewed 253 million times on YouTube. I can’t even hear that song anymore I’ve heard it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love it—the summer it came out, I played it in my sleep. Now I’m wondering how many kids have watched and listened to that song without recognizing that the piano melody at the core of it was taken from a Brenda Russell song back in 1979 called “A Little Bit of Love,” which was then taken and sampled in the late rap singer Big Pun’s record “Still Not a Player.” All before before Grande was six years old.

In Everything is a Remix, filmmaker Kirby Ferguson explores the line between inspiration and creative theft. In honor of its five-year anniversary, Ferguson has refined and remastered his well-cultivated four-part web series into a single video. Everything is a Remix doesn’t just look at the art of remixing and sampling, but also how it has influenced the way we view originality, the place it has in our culture, and how easily it can go unnoticed.

Ferguson traces the history of creation and cultural innovation in music, but also in film and technology. Ferguson argues that some of our most celebrated creatives, from Led Zeppelin to Steve Jobs, borrow and steal.

The release of this short film coincides with the most recent blank in the monumental copyright lawsuit between Prince and a young mother from Pennsylvania named Stephanie Lenz. Lenz posted a video to her YouTube channel back in 2007 of her toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” For more than eight years this case has been symbolic of music publishing’s fight to police their assets online. According to The New York Times, the United States Court of Appeals cleared the way for the case to go to trial on Monday.

Ferguson’s web series has been watched over two million times and produced a TED talkwhere he asks questions like, “Is remixing a form of creativity, a production of the new on the shoulders of what precedes it, or is it just copying?”

Check out the newly-remastered Everything Is a Remix below:

Everything is a Remix Remastered (2015 HD) from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Check out more of Ferguson’s work here, including his next web series called, This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory.


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The Remix: A Video Exegesis

The Top Five Most Outrageous Copyright Cases Of All Time

Nathaniel Ainley

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