Remix and Attribution

Learning Objective

  • Define Remix
  • Evaluate attribution within remix

Remix involves changing, blending, adding to, or taking away from existing media to create something new. Often remix is associated with music, as in the process of taking a radio song and remixing it for a nightclub or remixing a country song for a pop music radio station. But any media can be remixed, from photography to text to film. With writing, one notable example of remix is the cut-up technique, which involves actually cutting up a text and rearranging the cut pieces to form a new text.

What is attribution?

Attribution is credit given to creators in accordance with copyright law. With remix and remediation, attribution offers a way to acknowledge who was responsible for creating the original work(s).

Attribution can be tricky, as different works have different licenses and thus require different forms of attribution. On one end of the spectrum, works might not require any attribution, as they are part of the Public Domain. On the other end of the spectrum, works may require special permission from the copyright holder to be used. In the image below, you can read more about Creative Commons licenses and the attribution they require.


Check out the best practices for attribution of material with a Creative Commons license and rank the provided attributions of this image from best to worst.

Fair use in multimodal projects

The fair use doctrine allows students to use portions of copyrighted words and materials for educational purposes. The CCUMC (Consortium of College and University Media Centers) created fair use guidelines specifically for multimodal projects. These guidelines can help you determine the portion of copyrighted material that can be used in your multimodal projects.

Limitations When Remixing Copyrighted Work

Type Rule Example
Motion Media (t.v., films, videos, etc.) Up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less, of a copyrighted work Using 3 minutes from your favorite episode of Friends in a video for class
Text Material Up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less, of a copyrighted work Using 50 words from an article
Music lyrics and music videos Up to 10%, but in no event more than 30 seconds, of the music and lyrics from an individual musical workAny alterations to a musical work shall not change the basic melody or the fundamental character of the work. Using up to 30 seconds of Childish Gambino’s This is America music video in a video you make for class
Illustrations and photographs No more than 5 images by an individual artist or photographerFrom  a published collective work not more than 10% or 15 images When writing an analysis of a photo essay, you cannot use more than 5 photos by the photographer.
Numerical data sets Up to 10% or 2500 fields or cell entries, whichever is less, from a copyrighted database or data table When creating an infographic in class, you cannot use more than 10% of a researcher’s data to create a chart or table.


The Importance of Understanding Attribution

Failure to get attribution right in a multimodal text can have serious real world consequences. Remix relies on work created by others, and some of the greatest works of art and media have been remediations of earlier works. However, it’s important that you give careful thought to how much you use from other creators, and how you use it. There are the legal rules of fair use, which you learned about above, but this is something that just takes practice and careful thought to

In an academic context, failing to give proper attribution can result in questions of plagiarism or academic dishonesty. So, whether it’s getting sued or failing a course, discounting the importance of proper attribution can get you in real trouble.

Practice: remix and attribution