YouTube Space LA: The Ethics of Parody Remix

In December 2013, I was invited to give a lecture at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles on my transformative storytelling work, highlighting the fair use questions that arise when remixing video footage for the purposes of parody.

Jonathan McIntosh presenting at the YouTube Space LA

As part of my presentation, I also talked about the ethics of appropriation for the purposed of parody (beyond the legal fair use questions). There is a critical distinction between remixes mocking those occupying positions of power or authority and remixes making fun of those with relatively little privilege in society. It’s the difference between throwing rocks up and throwing rocks down. Barring in mind that there is not necessarily any correct answer, the following are some question I find it useful to ask before remixing media created by other parties.

  • Who own the source media and who is depicted in it?
  • What are the values, myths & messages in the source media?
  • What position(s) of power or privilege do they hold relative to me?
  • With those questions in mind, what is the intention of your remix?

I also had the opportunity to meet a number of YouTubers including Jonathan Mann who makes a song a day on his channel. He also created an amazing parody song of Grand Theft Auto called “GTA5: This is Why We Video Gaming” using Leigh Alexander’s scathing satirical review of the game as lyrics.

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