Remix: Keep Calm Posters and Other Merchandise

When thinking about something that is a remix, I thought about the Keep Calm and Carry On posters like these:


What a lot of people don’t know about these posters is that they were British propaganda posters created by the government in 1939 to raise morale because air attacks were widely predicted and feared. Tons of these posters were made then, but they never saw much public display. These posters have come into pop culture recently and left relatively unchanged. Thinking about the five factors of fair use here is how the Keep Calm merchandise weighs in:

1. Purpose and Character of Use

This merchandise weighs against fair use because it has been put back into the market for profit. In fact, the rights to this phrase has been recently fought over.

2. Nature of the Original Work

Since this poster didn’t see public display, and now has recently been thrust into the public, that is also working against fair use. Additionally, this work is creative and not factual, so using someone’s creative work is also working against fair use.

3. Amount and Substantiality of Portion Used

Like I said earlier in the post, this poster has remained relatively unchanged. Again, working against fair use. The only thing that has changed about the poster is the context in which it is being used.

4.Effect of the Use on the Potential Market for or Value of the Source Work

Since this poster hasn’t been used since 1939 before its recent use, I’d say this category is working for transformative use. Nearly one hundred years has passed since its last use, so its value was lost until now.

5. The “fifth” Category: Transformative use

The most obvious transformative use of the Keep Calm posters are the parodies. Like these:



The fight over the trademark for this phrase is interesting. There have been several companies that have tried to trademark it, but the British Intellectual Property Advisor has submitted a request to cancel the trademark because the phrase had been too widely used for one person or company to own the exclusive rights. They are still fighting about it.


Also there is this remix that I didn’t want to write about, but wanted to include because it’s hilarious:

NFL Bad Lip Reading



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