Lars Ulrich, beware! These people are coming to steal your music. Hosted by the San Francisco Film Society, this night of mash-ups galore promises to be, well, eclectic. And even though the music’s stolen, you still gotta pay.

Below, we chatted with RiP director Brett Gaylor about copyright and his film.

San Francisco Appeal: What’s the basic premise of the film?
Brett Gaylor: OK…I am terrible at this. It’s a feature documentary that is kind of a manifesto about why copyright is broken and the digital age. It explores this primarily through Girl Talk, who is a sample-based artist. I followed him through a couple years. And also I got a guy named Lawrence Lessig who started the Creative Commons project.

SFA: Why do you say copyright is broken? What’s wrong with it?
BG: The thing about copyright now is that it’s covering areas it never was meant to cover. It was never meant to cover a regular speech between people, folk art, all this kind of stuff that’s basically what’s going on on the internet. If you think about YouTube, think about Facebook, think about all our e-mails, think about Twitter, these are all the ways in which we’ve evolved to be able to communicate. Now copyright is covering those things. However, it doesn’t allow for sampling, for critique, for all these kinds of things that this technology can allow us to do. Copyright now lasts the life of the author plus seven years, so it lasts way longer. It just doesn’t make sense for the technology and the culture that exists in 2009. Myself and the film aren’t saying that we need to do away with it; we need to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

“Copyright was never meant to cover a regular speech between people, folk art, all this kind of stuff that’s basically what’s going on on the internet.”SFA: Do you see Creative Commons as a new sort of copyright law or is that in addition to a new law?
BG: That’s going back to the way things used to be. It used to be that everything was in the public domain, prior to copyright. Anybody could copy anything. But when the printing press came around, all of a sudden there was a new dilemma of “How do I ensure that nobody’s ripping me off?” Or, “How am I going to make books? What’s going to be the incentive for me to create new books?” Copyright was invented as a 14-year limited necessary evil…It wasn’t created to control work; it was actually created to encourage people to make more art, to make more science. And it just got perverted over the years so that now when most people think about copyright, they think of it as a control mechanism.

SFA: What do you think it would take for us to get back to that stage?
BG: It takes people to raise the issue. My film is part of a movement to make it accessible and understandable and vital to people. That’s why I wanted to consciously make a film that was fun and people would get excited about and see themselves in it, rather than be lectured to. I think once a lot of people are cognizant of that issue there’s a certain amount of civil disobedience that happens. It’s already happening.

SFA: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the film?
BG: RiP is a great film to watch with other people because the music is great and it’s really entertaining. It’s cool to have (Eclectic Method) come in as well because they do a kind of audio/visual mash-up. They’ve played with the film four or five times. It’s really amazing, and it’s another thing we’re trying to do to rethink the way that people experience movies. Rather than just sit in a theater, afterwards we’re inviting you to dance and be part of this creative process as well.

What: A melange featuring the documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto and VJs Eclectic Method
When: Thursday, July 23 at 7 p.m.
Where: Mezzanine (444 Jessie Street at Mint)
Cost: $12 for SFFS year-round members, $17 for the general public

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