This is just a quick post on a debate happening around Mixel, the collaging app from Khoi Vinh and Scott Olster. The issue is about image rights, attribution, and fair use. When mixellers use images from the web, what is their responsibility to link back to the original artist? Should a h/t be given to the source, or is the nature of the medium enough to make all image fair game? While some of this can verge on legalese, I had two general thoughts about that discussion.

There are noticeable number of mixels (mine included!)  that are only one copyrighted image and one or two minor edits. While it can be argued that this falls under fair use, I think it violates the spirit of digital image creation. If we cannot radically remix and redefine an image, I don’t believe the Mixel app is the right place to post it. Instead, things like this should remain on Tumblr or Twitter, where direct attribution can still be made.

Second, the community has made a big effort to reward Mixellers whose post count goes into the hundreds. It’s common to see Congratulations! 400 mixels! 500 mixels! and so on. While I do not doubt the sincerity and effort that goes into achieving this kind of output, I wonder if there is an unhealthy pursuit of numbers as a proxy for creativity.  This may seem unfair, and it most cases, I’m sure it is. As a visual artist, however, I would rather see fewer, more complex mixels being created (and feted).

If we are to use stuff from the web, we owe it to their original creators to reimagine what they did, and not blindly copy their work. In the long run, encouraging this kind of work will make the community stronger.