Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Is there any creativity today? Every movie these days seems to be a sequel, prequel, or remake. Songs are sampling beats or ripping lines straight from songs my parents used to listen to (I'm looking at you Ms. Spears). Both she and the country group Lady Antebellum are two of the bigger names currently facing a lot of scrutiny for allegedly ripping music from others. Whether or not they actually did is debatable. The issue at large though is the fact that the artists who are claiming their music was used was done so illegally under copyright laws.

In looking at it from an artists perspective, I would be furious if someone were to use my creative works for their personal benefit. If I put countless hours into writing songs for a new album or millions of dollars into producing a movie, it would drive me up a wall knowing that my copyrighted blood, sweat, and tears could be used to make someone else money. On the flip side, if I'm making a video for a school project and get slammed with accusations of a copyright violation, that seems a little ridiculous. In high school I was a part of the morning news show and we frequently put together clips of school sporting events while using popular music to go with it. The librarian had a personal vendetta against our teacher and he sent her a letter stating that if we did not adhere to the copyright laws for the music that we were using he would take the issue to the "appropriate authorities." Needless to say, I think Darude has much more important things to worry about than a group of 12th graders using the song "Sandstorm" for a minute long soccer highlight showed during second hour.

It is in instances like these, where there is no attempt for financial gain, that the copyright law seems downright ridiculous. Lessig brings up an even worse example of the terrible misuse of the law. He talks about the idea that if there is value, then there is right and that "[This] is the perspective that led a composers' rights organization, ASCAP, to sue the Girl Scouts for failing to pay for the songs that girls sang around Girl Scout campfires. There was "value" (the songs) so there must have been a "right"--even against the Girl Scouts." It is at this point that a 7 year old girl learns the phrase "are you kidding me?"

Lessig informs us that our own copyright law is in fact a copy (and improvement) of English copyright law. He states the law is there "To prevent the concentrated power of publishers, they built a structure that kept copyrights away from publishers and kept them short. To prevent the concentrated power of a church, they banned the federal government from establishing a church. To prevent concentrating power in the federal government, they built structures to reinforce the power of the states--including the Senate, whose members were at the time selected by the states, and an electoral college, also selected by the states, to select the president. In each case, a structure built checks and balances into the constitutional frame, structured to prevent otherwise inevitable concentrations of power." That interpretation of the law has long since changed. As it stands today, the copyright law has expanded from prosecuting the unlawful republishing of a work to include every aspect of said work from the moment of creation.

This is great in theory, but when you are told by the Adobe eBook Reader that you are not allowed to read Alice in Wonderland out loud, it becomes borderline insanity. In these cases the law goes too far and goes to show how laughable it has become. While I am all for protecting the creativity of artists who create music, movies, books, etc. for the world to enjoy, going after girl scouts and teachers who would like to read a book aloud is absolutely the wrong path to take.

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