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Kirby Ferguson’s epic and informative web serial, Everything is a Remix, comes to an inspiring conclusion with part four, to my mind the best of the series. In “Part Four: System Failures,” he looks at the historical roots of copyright and patent protection and examines how today’s system has drifted so far away from the original goals of furthering the public good while still protecting creators. I can’t recommend Ferguson’s series more highly, and if you find yourself in an argument with someone about legislations like SOPA, PiPA and ACTA, point them towards these videos for a succinctly argued treatise on intellectual property in the age of the internet.

On the basis of the episodes he had done so far, I selected Ferguson for Filmmaker‘s 2011 “25 New Faces” list. Here’s how I began his profile:

It’s hard to create something original about the remix. Okay, that would seem to go without saying, but I’m not referring to the subject of the remix — I’m talking about the discourse surrounding it. From Lawrence Lessig’s book Remix to Brett Gaylor’s feature doc, RIP: A Remix Manifesto, the creative, social and political issues surrounding the rise of remix culture have been debated with brio. Paradoxically, then, the familiarity we have with the issue of remixing is precisely what makes Kirby Ferguson’s four-part Web series, Everything is a Remix, so compelling. Rather than push a copy-left agenda or hype the latest mash-up artist, Ferguson uses the subject of the remix to discuss the history and nature of creativity. Everything is a Remix deconstructs the idea of originality, exploring the creative but also technological and business memes that recombine from one generation to the next, making us feel that we are encountering something “new” along the way. And it does so in bite-size, six-minute segments that have become a self-sustaining enterprise for its New York-based director.

“The idea for the series started a few years ago, when there were [plagiarism] lawsuits against Coldplay, J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown,” says Ferguson. “I thought they were kind of far-fetched. Why does someone think that anything that resembles their work is an infringement? I thought [these lawsuits] were hypocritical, because you can go back and find [earlier works] that resemble theirs.”

Saying that he thought this “hypocrisy could be explained in an entertaining way,” Ferguson conceived of his four parts, which move from an examination of creative influence in general through, this October in its final episode, “the nitty-gritty legal and political aspects” of the current copyright system. Each episode is something of a mash-up too, as film clips, pop songs, archival material and voiceover combine in witty, succinct and, yes, entertaining ways. In the first episode, side-by-side clips illustrate George Lucas’s Star Wars influences, while Quentin Tarantino gets similar treatment later. But the pieces also touch on the invention of the automobile, the history of the Internet and the rise of the personal computer.

Originally I was just going to embed the new video, but since it concludes the series, I’ll post them all. Fans who have been following Everything is a Remix can jump to the fourth video here. For others, watch them one-by-one and learn from one of the best web series ever. Afterwards, go to Kickstarter and consider supporting Ferguson’s latest project, This is Not a Conspiracy Theory.

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

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