Thursday, February 24, 2011


I myself have partaken in copyright infringement. I did not know at the time I had though. Like I've seen in many of the posts, you order something off the internet and when it gets to you, you find out it's copyrighted material. I "purchased" a clip of video about hybrids to use in a presentation for school. I got an email saying that it was mine to use however I wanted. However, when I put it into the video editing software it had a "watermark" voice that would repeat "this is an illegal copy" when I tried to get my money back the person would not respond.

I can understand how not obeying these laws can be for the "owner." I could imagine it being like playing a video game and beating the level, then someone else comes in and says "I did that" and they get the credit. For some though it helps, for example one of Taylor Swifts singles leaked on to the web early and it actually HELPED sell her new CD.

The movie industry tries to scare people away from selling pirated movies by using ads. The ads that they used to show were very good in my opinion. It compares things to make you realize that pirating is against the law. It definaitly put things in to perspective for me!

Copyright infringement is against the law, however I really don't see everyone who breaks it getting caught. It's something that you just have to deal with. As long as their are rules, their will be people who want to test/break them!

Also just wanted to share this link. It's a website about Lessig.


Today we are in the middle of another "war" against "piracy."

The Internet has provoked this war.

How you might feel as someone wanting to use copyrighted material in a video or other work…

If I thought about using copyrighted material in my personal work, I would (truthfully) just rip it, but only bits n pieces of it. I would get creative with it, as creative commons states. That stupid little C can cause many legal issues, after watching the creative commons video, it felt like we had someone on our side. lol

…and as someone who owns copyrighted material that someone else wants to use in THEIR work. Where do you stand?

I guess in this case, it would only matter to me depending on what that other person is doing with my work. For the most part, I don’t think I’d make a huge deal with lawsuits or anything. If I post or share something online of mine with copyright infringements, I would probably also state that if you want to use my stuff contact me for clear footage. I realize what I post online is all public and there are immense amount of ways to rip my work. I’m all for creativity an sharing just not complete plagiarism.

Some of these changes come from the law: some in light of changes in technology, and some in light of changes in technology given a particular concentration of market power.

The internet may be harming copyright owners a bit, but for the most part I don’t think so. Why? Because everything is digital and online now, and privacy/piracy as we’ve discussed before is almost nonexistent. I also feel that if you are going to post your copyrighted video online, than you want people to see it, you want it to be shared. The more views you get, the more popularity your video gains. More so, depending on how many views your video gets, more than likely people will want to create something similar to your video to gain the same/similar recognition. Am I making sense?

I do not think that all this copyright business is killing creative industries, instead I think all this ‘exclusive’ material is actually sparking more creative fever. Given, not all of it may be positive thoughts (because there are some terrible people out there) but many of us look to special videos to gain knowledge and experiment with videos and things on our own. The more barriers we see, the harder we try to break them, and ultimately learning that breaking code is a genius in itself.

Remixing and reposting, I think, does outweigh the harm for video content, because as I mentioned videos get posted online in hopes of it going viral. People want hits and views because that how they gain popularity and at some point profit off a successful original channel. When a fan reposts an artist’s video he/she is trying to spread the word not thinking about harming the artist themselves (probably). Many videos deal with humor, and also a lot of times fans are trying to catch their favorite artists attention.

As far as remixing copyright material making our culture better? I don’t see how that correlates. please someone feel free to explain or elaborate on that aspect for me.

What's Mine is Mine, and What's Yours is Mine

     First, I'd like to point out that the image I used is probably copyrighted to someone, somewhere. How does this make me feel? Absolutely indifferent. It was on the internet, the eighth image that showed up in an image search for "copyright". When I clicked on it there were no pop-ups asking me to pay to use this image, or write an email requesting permission. I just assumed that it was there for me to use.
     I have to admit though, that I do feel somewhat bad for the copyright owners in general, especially when it comes to music. With the internet, it's so easy to rip and torrent music now that I wonder how much they actually make from their songs and albums. I personally have not purchased any music since about 2004, when I got my iPod, yet my collection of music has grown from 70 CDs to over 4,500 songs (and I'm just getting started). I "borrow" from my friends - some who have actually purchased the music, some who have not - but the truth of the matter is that stuff is copyrighted, and it's not being acquired properly - it's stealing.
     I know that if I was the singer or songwriter and I looked at just how much of my hard work and creativity was stolen, I'd be furious. It's like when your younger sister copies your hairstyle or buys a matching shirt - you are so ticked off because she's copying you, and your unique idea is gone.
     Mark Helprin wrote an article called A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn't Its Copyright? in which he basically rants about the fact that his copyright expires 70 years after his death. In a way, I sympathize with him - sure, you created something, it should be yours forever. But 70 years after your death? When you're dead and gone, does it really matter that you make full price on something you wrote? To me, 70 years is reasonable because it's inherited by your family and should help provide money for your kids and grandkids. After that, it should be up to someone else to think of something "new" and be creative. Just think... if we all had one person in our family come up with the "next big thing", had it copyrighted and we lived off the royalties forever, there would be nothing new! Maybe that's a scretch, but it's definitely worth considering.
     I really can't form a definite opinion about whether the laws are fair or not, because I've never created anything of significance, and I don't necessarily plan to in the future. Maybe one day I'll write the next great American novel and then my opinion will change. For now, I just want to watch free music videos on YouTube and 'borrow' cute pictures of Wall-E to fulfill my blog assignment!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Copyright, Fair Use, and Piracy

This week’s journey into the realm of copyright, fair use, and piracy certainly left my head spinning due to what appeared to be valid concerns and arguments on all sides of the issue.

The “Property” reading segment was the most challenging for me, the author did a good job of breaking down the fundamental differences between the copyright laws beginning in the 1790’s as a way of protecting the works of individual creators, against the publishers, thus giving the creator’s more incentive to do more. Then, he followed the evolution of the copyright laws and what they in fact give us today where: “Every realm is governed by copyright law, whereas before most creativity was not” (p.43). As technology has evolved, so has the ability to find people who infringe on a person’s copyright. Even if they didn’t know it, I certainly didn’t think that fan fiction was an infringement, or that tampering with the computer code on some electronic devices was an infringement as well.

In regards to the fair use issue, especially since I’m and avid YouTube fan, now I’m even more confused. If you take the policies literally, most of what I watch could be a potential Terms of Service Violation. I see music videos posted by private people, people performing songs, and even teaching people how to play their favorite songs – could that be an infringement as well? Are we at the stage where it is legally permissible to sue a person because they are on YouTube giving a lesson on how to play Stairway to Heaven? I hope not, but I’m certainly going to be more careful in the future.

The piracy issue, that seemed pretty black and white to me, I’m certainly guilty of making my share of LimeWire downloads ten years ago, but for the most part I’m clean now. Especially since my brother was one of the people targeted in a massive RIAA sting and he wound up settling out of court for $4,000.00. No downloads for me after that. I don’t have a problem making a back up copy of something for myself, but posting something for the masses to download for free, does still seem like the wrong thing to do.

It has been an interesting ten years watching the evolution of the music business in particular in the face of all the p2p sharing. This isn’t the first time the music industry has had to change its ways. Back in the 1920’s the music industry started suing radio stations for playing music for free. They felt that if it was played for free, nobody would go out an buy it. Funny, how the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Copyright Laws Should Not Impede Social Progress

As a Western society we have relied on structuring models for the advancement of our civilization. Beginning in England, copyright laws were established to foment scientific and cultural progress by motivating people with rewards. We have advanced as a society through inventions which have been built upon by others throughout the years. As such, while copyright laws serve to motivate progress in society, the laws should be flexible enough to allow for others to build upon them and drive advancement.

Helprin argues that copyright laws should be extended to secure reward for descendants on the grounds that it will keep motivating invention. While I do agree that rewarding motivates ideas and works to keep being produced, extending the law would just make it harder for other people to build upon the initial idea. Ideas are part of a society regardless of who invented them because they are produced in a particular localized moment in time. Making them available to the public after certain time enhances the society's contextualized history. Moreover, it enables the society to reinvent and build upon them, and make progress towards new eras of cultural and scientific knowledge.

This is not to say that authors go without credit on their work. As an author, I feel that my work can be used and I should be cited by the authors that use it. Likewise, I like to credit any work that I borrow. It is an ethical issue not to pass work that it's not ours as our own. Robbing ideas leads to authors persuing stricter copyright laws, and the whole society, not just offenders, is affected.

Using inventions without proper permission or citation has been an issue on the net world recently. The internet has made illegal use of music and film material rampant. Though, ideas and works have also been shared without permission, the music and movie industry has suffered the most. Therefore, the sharing of these materials on the internet should be under more control and authors should make their work easily and inexpensively accesible online to avoid abuse of their inventions. It will benefit authors by having more control over their works and earnings as well as benefit the public by having it accessible at a reasonable cost and easy access.

Finally, individual ownership of work has the rewards of motivating invention and progress. Tightening the laws protecting invention leads other authors to alienate their works from the social context in which they were born. It makes it harder for others to build upon them if they have to consult descendants everytime they even think of using someone else's ideas. These people may not be as knowledgeable as their ancestors about the work or may not even care about the contributions to society. Thus, copyright laws should not be extended and a percentage of financial gain can be established for descendants whenever usage of their ancestors' work acquires monetary gain. This way future inventors have access to ideas and descendants are keep financially secured and happy.

It's on the Internet, I can use it!

I have looked at both sides of the copyright situation and have mixed feelings about it. I agree in saying that is wrong and illegal to go around stealing others work. Though I also think that the internet is such a wonderful and if the work is out there then why can't I use it too?

I think this is where the biggest problem of piracy comes into play. While the government and other companies work to stop it, I fell that they don't go about doing so in the best way possible. It seems that you see more cases of single downloaders going to court over piracy then those hosting the sites and programs or those hosting the music or movies.

The internet is a huge resource for everyone and it is easy to get almost anything you want out there if you know where to look. Why should we target the people who just go and use that information instead of having a stronger focus on those who put it out there for everyone. I know that some companies such as Napster have been shut down but there is so many others that can be easily accessed. We should spend more time taking them down then bothering with the single people that download a few songs here and there.

Comparing this to what we read in the "Guide to Youtube Removals". When videos on Youtube have copyright infringement then the person who posted the video takes the "punishment" for posting it. Youtube doesn't go and track down everyone who watched that video and give their information to companies to sue them for using sources available to the public.

Overall I feel that if something is easily attainable on the internet that someone should be able to use that and not be worried about committing a crime but those who make it available are the problem.

borrowing or stealing?

It boils down to intent and practice.

If the intent is to steal content just for the sake of distributing it in its unaltered form, it’s an obvious example of theft. On the other hand if you take that content and create something new with it (the law may not see it this way) but it seems to be borrowing, and shouldn’t be punished.

In determining what is borrowing and what is stealing ratio seems to be important. What’s the percentage of original material compared to copyright material? How well does it resemble the source material?

There are many electronic musicians who sample bits and pieces of songs and works from other artists. This sampling is the foundation of plunderphonics.* I’m not talking about terrible mash-ups either. The songs produced however do not resemble their source material. There is a certain art to putting pieces together, which initially don’t seem to fit. Who’s to say that this artist is infringing on any copyright laws when they have created an original artwork?

Borrowing elements from other people and combining them in new ways is a great for new ideas and artworks to develop. Let’s equate it to collage. In its simplest form, we’ve all probably made a collage. Cutting out magazine pictures and using a glue stick to paste them on poster board is a simple example. The images that go up on that poster board are not yours, even though you paid for the magazine, and you certainty didn’t make them. You did, on the other hand, take the time to gather them and arrange them in new ways to make something new from the pieces. You have, from those disparate pieces, constructed new meaning and a new artwork. In law, the concept I am referring to would be called transformativeness.

Having loose copyrights laws allows this synthesis to occur. Others have mentioned Star Wars Uncut, which is a great artistic and creative endeavor even though it is based off preexisting material. People borrow others ideas all the time, and use them for building blocks for their own works. It happens in music, it happens in film, albeit in more subtle ways (except with Tarantino), the Internet just has a way of being less subtle about…well, everything.

“The public domain is like a vast national park without a guard to stop wanton looting, without a guide for a lost traveler, and in fact, without clearly defined roads or even borders to stop the helpless visitor from being sued for trespass by private abutting owners." - This Business of Music

*The terms was coined by John Oswald in his article Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative. Check it out if you’re interested.

Copyright and the music business

Copyright music has been a hot topic since MP3s have been in mainstream use. This is a great article on classical music and the copyright use of it

We get a lot of music sent to us from bands that are up and coming or really trying to get their name out there. We also have deejays who play remixes sampled with copyright music. However, a lot of that type of music is trying to show a creative twist. Others have been burned by copyright and not getting their money due for using or sampling their music.

Unlike Napster, many media companies have entered negotiations with YouTube to try to resolve copyright issues up front. Although every deal is different, copyright infringement issues are usually resolved by paying royalties to the offended party. In this case, Universal and YouTube actually entered such negotiations. With the filing of the lawsuit, it obviously didn't work out. The reported problem was the fact an unreleased Jay-Z music video appeared on YouTube. Obviously, Universal felt its thunder had been stolen. (

There are many times where artists are trying to get paid for their work. That is all. But there will be a constant vigil of record labels that will make sure they get paid too. Suing people for not paying for copyright music will solve nothing. The problem is here and it will not changed. It has changed how music is sold. Radiohead's last two albums have been sold online and you pay whatever price you want. The laws are still unclear and you will continue to see that with music online.

Copyrights and You(Tube)

Copyright law pertaining to internet information draws a fine line. It's often hard to tell if something falls under Fair Use Doctrine or not. This issue is particularly relevant on YouTube where new videos are being posted up constantly.

While uploaded full TV episodes and movie clips is typically stomped on pretty quickly by YouTube, what intrigues me is the response to music in YouTube videos. Many, many songs are on Youtube, as well as music videos. Many people attach music to their own videos that they upload as well. Sometimes this is allowed, and sometimes it is not. It seems that the copyright holders have the final say, but in many instances, they seem to allow it. Other times though, a YouTube video's audio will be disabled and there will be a disclaimer about how the original video's music was copyrighted.

Often times, videos uploaded with music to YouTube fail two categories of fair use, according to First of all, when analyzing the "nature of the copyrighted work", music is creative, not factual. Secondly, when analyzing the "amount taken from the copyrighted work", it is often the entire song. If the song is uploaded as a video with no lyrics and no video to go along with it, it seems to me like this is just a blatant copy of a song that people can listen to at their leisure. I wonder if sometime in the future, people will be saying, "Remember when you used to be able to listen to free music on YouTube?"

Copyright issues on YouTube involve more than just music, however. One article this week that particularly interested me was this one: In the article, CBS requests YouTube to remove a video because it is copyrighted by CBS. Who uploaded the video, you ask? Also CBS! A strange turn of events, indeed. The video was of a reporter that apparently was having a stroke on air during the Grammy awards, and for whatever reason, CBS decided they no longer wanted the video on YouTube, no matter who hosted it. Perhaps the copyright excuse was just because they did not want to embarrass one of their reports anymore than she may have already had been. No matter what the reason though, the result seems to be bureaucracy at its finest.

It seems to me that if copyright holders really wanted to crack down on the distribution of their music and videos on YouTube, they probably could. Take the below video, for example; I really don't see how it could fall under fair use because it is simply a free online playback of a copyrighted song. It even uses the album artwork! Now personally, I'm all for these types of videos as I enjoy music, particularly free music, but legally... pretty questionable.

Into the Great Wide Open by Tom Petty


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.


I've considered this week's readings from both sides of the coin and I have to say I'm pretty one-sided on this topic. Copyrights should be protected from infringement. The internet should not provide an avenue of exception to this rule.

I believe the internet is harming copyright owners and their livelihoods. If I were the owner of material with a copyright it would be upsetting to see how easy the internet makes the copyright almost null and void. I have personally seen how often P2P music and movie sharing takes place. I, as one of these artists, would be pissed if my hard work was stolen in such a manner.

Artists and others who would like to use material with a copyright should take the appropriate steps to get permission to do so. I do not see how obtaining this material illegally is bettering our world, artistically speaking. Artists that choose to obtain this material without permission should consider how they would feel if their finished piece were then illegally obtained from them...Theft is theft no matter what spin you put on it.

Copy Tech

I'm split down the middle when it comes to copyright. Authors and owners of ideas have the right to protect their creations and decide how they should be used. But people have the right to free speech and to express their views; fair use when it comes to copyright. The whole purpose of copyright was to promote the spread of culture, not prevent it. Ideas and creations that were wanted by the public would most likely be controlled by their creator for a while and then passed on to that public to be used freely. These days copyright duration is so long that even if the creator dies it still takes 50 years to go public. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as people's lifespans get longer and there are more and more types of media for copyrighted material to be turned in to.

Like most confrontations between law and technology, the law is lagging behind. There have been attempts to make copyright law and technology mesh, but technology advances so fast and law has to be written so precisely that it creates a giant gray area for things like fair use; which is mostly up to the individuals involved to define. Sure, there are guidelines to what fair use is but they're broad enough that 20 people will come up with 20 different views, which isn't very good when it's a confrontation between the rights of two groups.

Copyright...or copywrong?

Like it or not, file-sharing is just as prevalent as ever, and many industries are paying the price as a result. On the video gaming side, it came as no surprise that major player Capcom refused to release Super Street Fighter 4 for PC considering the previous iteration was pirated nearly two million times in less than a year. Similarly, developer Crytek was shocked to learn that 90% of the computers running their game Crysis were running pirated copies, costing the developers money not only because of all the lost sales, but also to maintain the servers these pirates use for multiplayer matches.

To use an even more extreme example, the entire anime industry in America has been running on piracy since the beginning. In the early days, shows were spread via a few low-quality VHS copies subtitled by fans, and the only way you could watch was if you "knew a guy". Today, thanks to the internet, it's all too easy to quickly copy and share high-quality fansubs, with most becoming available only a few days after their Japanese airdate and months (perhaps even years) before their official English-language release. This has cost anime distributors massive amounts of money over the years, and forced more than a few to cut back on their releases or even close up shop for good. While several have attempted to combat this via officially-sanctioned same-day streams, some of the more entitled fans have gone so far as to hack the distributors' official website and start sharing the episode even before the Japanese airdate, causing conflict to arise between the American distributor and the Japanese client.

I could continue to go on a long rant about the evils of piracy and how stealing is bad and isn't acceptable under any circumstances, but doing so would likely only serve to paint me as the biggest hypocrite on earth.

You see, I currently produce a series called Sonic F, a parody of the Sonic X animated series that re-purposes episodes of the latter into more comedic, satirical takes on the material.

To illustrate, here's the fifth episode of Sonic X, "Cracking Knuckles", alternatively titled "Clash! Sonic vs. Knuckles" in its original Japanese broadcast.

Now, in contrast, here's the fifth episode of Sonic F, "Clash! Knuckles vs. Crippling Stupidity".

Note that the music is different, the script is heavily altered, and the voices have all been re-recorded. The only thing retained from the original episode is the footage, and even then, not all of the original work is featured, and many clips are shown out of order or spliced up to fit the new dialogue. By this point, it's more or less become its own unique work almost completely independent of its source material, save for following a similar plot and reusing some footage. So at that point, does it really qualify as copyright infringement?

Apparently, no. A recent revision of the DMCA states the following to be one of six new "exemptions from the statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work":

Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use in the following instances:
(i) Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
(ii) Documentary filmmaking;
(iii) Noncommercial videos

Under this revision, because my videos are transformative works that differ enough from the original material to be unmistakably recognized as mmine, as well the fact that I obtain all my footage from legally-purchased DVDs and don't use them as a means of profit, Sonic F is technically protected from being auto-flagged as infringing copyright.

Plenty of others use copyrighted material for their own creative purposes, and plenty of new and interesting things have appeared as a result. However, companies are all too quick to attempt and take these things down out of a belief that any unpermitted use of their material is completely unlawful no matter the purpose. While I agree that piracy as a whole is a serious issue, not every person who uses sample clips for something is a pirate. Full unrestricted use of someone else's material risks damaging various industries, but at the same time, a total crackdown would only lead to a lot of creative minds being silenced. There needs to be more guidelines as to what constitutes theft and what doesn't so that the copyright holders are protected but the remixers are free to express themselves. It's certainly not a question that I think is going to get answered any time soon, but I know that for me personally, as long as there's an audience, I plan to continue making videos, regardless of who thinks otherwise.

Fair Use on the Stage: Dramaturgy and Copyrighting

Okay, so Fair Use Girl is probably one of the more boring Superheroes but she just so happens to fit in quite nicely with this week's blog content.  Actually, as every one of us have been doing since we started writing blog posts, I am exercising my "right" to fair use just by posting this picture to my blog...(Thanks Fair Use Girl!)

I found this week's material very interesting, mostly because I am subject to alot of copyrighted material as I perform in many plays with my local community theatre group.  This has put a lot of things into perspective for me.  The performer in me wonders what the world would be like if no one could put on a new production of "Hamlet", "The Importance of Being Earnest", "Tartuffe",  "Rent" or "The Producers."  Each of these productions have been put on through my playhouse, and each of them have been different, at least in some ways, then other productions of the same plays done elsewhere.  This is a perfect example of the Fair Use concept of "transformativeness" as stated in the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video.  You see, each director and each actor brings with them a new way of interpreting the lines that are written, or the envisioning the set where the play is performed, and even the emotional state of the characters themselves.  Because of this, each production, and sometimes each performance, is different than the others regardless of the fact that it is the same play. 

Lawrence Lessig wrote that "Creators here and everywhere are always and at all times building upon the creativity that went before and that surrounds them now."  This is very true, in all aspects of society, but especially in the entertainment world.  Did you know that the popular 90's teen movie 10 Things I Hate About You, was actually an adaption of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew? That movie would never have been made if it wasn't for the ability to "borrow" from another's creative accomplishments.   Or how about the controversial adaption of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes?  Surely Shakespeare did not envision his play to contain vehicles and guns let alone take place in the 20th century.  More recently the George Clooney film O Brother Where Art Thou? was loosely based on Homer's epic poem The Odyssey yet takes place in rural America.  And the list can go on and on.  Each adaptation, created something new and "valuable" in its own right, and the material that was drawn upon to create this new experience has been made richer for it.  Mark Halperin said it best when he noted that "ideas are immaterial to the question of copyright." He stresses the notion that art and creativity are subjective, two people may start with the same idea and create two completely different works of art, i.e. Neil Diamond and Mozart or Shakespeare and The Coen Brothers.

Lessig also noted that to make intellectual property and physical property the same would "fundamentally weaken the opportunity for new creators to create."  I absolutely agree with this statement, with some reservations of course.  Looking at the issue of copyrighting from the perspective of someone who created something, I could see certain instances where I would not want someone to use my work.  One instance would be, obviously, to duplicate my work and present it as their own.  It is obvious to most of us that to do so is dishonest, not to mention morally reprehensible.  Another example would be to take my work and twist it to conform to a purpose that contradicts what my work was created for in the first place.   Other than these two conditions, I would want my work to be used to encourage another's creativity and to inspire and generate new works that will in turn do the same.  This process may not provide me with monetary capital, but it will almost certainly be rich in "cultural capital" which is after all, one of the main reasons why creators create and performers perform. 

Fair use and Copyrights



Copyright Laws…Wow… again Wow… after reading all the material, then doing some research to find more, my heading was spinning. I never realized that it all began "When the first Congress enacted laws to protect creative property, when it faced the same uncertainty about the status of creative property that the English had confronted in1774 and that in 1790, Congress enacted the first copyright law." At that time; a Federal copyright and secured that copyright for fourteen years, if the author was alive at the end, then he could opt to renew the copyright or his work would have passed into the public domain. Since then it has change a great deal, the years that you could own a copyright have increased, there are controls, not permissions. Today there is even more to it with the web, e-books just to name a few. Even the Fair Use of copyrighted materials is so hard to understand, and it doesn't provide an effective guidance for the use of others' works. Except for when in "doubt, obtain permission."

I believe the internet is harming copyright owners and their livelihoods. But part of that is possible, cause they are not double checking on ways to secure there copyright before posting it on the internet or they have not done there research on how to keep it safe. I will be re-reading and doing more research on this before I post or publish anything. In a article Field v Google it states you can prevent Google from caching your site by using the "no-archive" metatag, and also prevent from indexing your site by using 'no-index' metatag or putting the "user-agent:*Disallow: /'command in the website's robots.txt file.

Here is a list of several articles I found regarding the Fair use of Copyrighted materials:

Fair use: Further Issues

Copyright Basics: Fair Use

Fair use of copyrighted materials:

Center for Social Media

Progress vs. Piracy

I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of p2p file sharing. I'd like to think I have a widespread collection of music on my laptop and iPod, thanks to Limewire. I'm aware that this is illegal downloading, however; I always justified these actions by figuring that the music artists make enough money as it is.

I started thinking about music artists who have publicly spoken out against piracy, and I remembered a PSA that Kid Rock did from a couple years ago. Here is the link to the PSA, sarcastically entitled "Steal Everything".

Kid Rock points out that yes, he is a rich man...but if you are going to steal one of his songs, why stop there? Whatever you want, whether it be a laptop, car, gas, etc. - you should steal it. My reasoning for p2p music downloads doesn't seem as strong anymore.

On the other hand, "Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?" points out that some believe that "copyright impedes creativity and progress" and "if we severely weaken copyright protections, innovation will truly flourish".

I was intrigued by Lessig's description of Walt Disney's "idea sharing", if you will, from Buster Keaton's "Steamboat Bill" into his own "Steamboat Willie", and also the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales into various Disney movies.

"In all of these cases, Disney (or Disney, Inc.) ripped creativity from the culture around him, mixed that creativity with his own extraordinary talent, and then burned that mix into the soul of his culture. Rip, mix, and burn." -Lessig-

It is amazing to see what Disney created from building upon the ideas of others and adding to them. Lessig points out that many creative individuals base their work off one another - actors perform adaptations of existing works, scientists use formulas and research from other scientists, etc. Feeding off of one another can result in a positive outcome. However, if I were Buster Keaton, I believe I would feel very differently.

From my own personal experience, I know that p2p has introduced me to different artists, songs, actors/actresses and films that I do not know if I would have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.


This was a difficult topic for me. On one hand I think that Mark Helprin makes a good point. His family shouldn't be stripped of their rights to his copyrighted work just because he has been dead for 70 years. Then again what will his work be worth 70 years from the day he dies? Google estimates the number of unique books in the world at 130 million. How many of those books will still be of interest 70 or even 14 years from now? It makes the issue of the copyright seem irrelevant to the family and the public if the family won't make any money from it and the public doesn't want it.

I can see how a copyright could be irritating to someone who wants to use copyrighted material. But they could always try asking for permission to use it. If that fails they could try to find something else to use or maybe even consider the possibility of creating something original.

Lawrence Lessig points out that "A person may use the copy by playing it, but he has no right to rob the author of the profit, by multiplying copies and disposing of them for his own use." So I don't understand why it is wrong for a person to make a copy of the cd they bought for a friend. Especially if that friend could not afford the cd and would not have purchased it anyway. No one is losing any money and your friend benefits. I realize that it would be unethical to make 10 copies, but I don't think it is a problem if a person wants to make one or two. I feel that once you buy something it is your right to use it however you want as long as you aren't hurting someone else and I don't think one copy will hurt anyone.

I Steal, Therefore I Am

I am going to treat this week’s blog as more of a confession.  I am the sinner, and you are the priest.

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.”
“What brings you here?”
“Well, I illegally download a whole bunch of shit from the Internet including music, videos, and other copy written materials.”
“Ah, well my son, ten Hail Mary’s and all your sins will be forgotten.”
     I will present two sides to the argument of said illegal materials, one from a musician’s perspective the other from the consumer.  First, I was a local musician here in Detroit for the better part of 10 years.  I stress the term local, meaning, unsigned to any record label or management.  My band produced four albums.  Many of the albums were sold via shows, and through PayPal.  Songs from these albums were offered on various websites for free download with permission from the band.  Later, it came to my attention that a few songs were found on various p2p networks such as Limewire, and Kazaa.  Reiterating the term local I took this as free exposure and distribution of our music.  So what if others were sharing our songs for free, the more people that heard us the better!  Then someone pointed out that one of our CD’s had been uploaded to I TUNES.  It wasn’t anyone from the band, so who was the culprit?  I still don’t know, but our disc is still there and someone is reaping the profits from music I created.  Sure there is money being exchanged, but the artist, meaning me isn’t seeing any of it!  Disappointing yes, but again I was never signed to a label, and I never expected music to put food on the table.  I can understand why people like Lars from Metallica get upset at p2p networks.  My band was never on the economic level of a Metallica, so there is reason for him to be upset.  If the material is copy written the owners should be paid for the use of that material.  Artists like Dangermouse, and Girl Talk run into a slippery slope when they mash-up pre-existing works. 

 Creative work has value; whenever I use, or take, or build upon the creative work of others, I am taking from them something of value. Whenever I take something of value from someone else, I should have their permission. The taking of something of value from someone else without permission is wrong. It is a form of piracy. “Piracy”

     Here’s where I become a hypocrite.  Not only have I used p2p networks to acquire music, but throw videos in the mix.  Let me start from the beginning.  First, in the early days of piracy, I would order my three weekly videos from Netflix.  I had a program on my laptop which allowed me to copy the movie, and burn it to a writable DVD.  Gasp!  This went on for quite a while, and I didn’t feel any remorse.  I was of the attitude, “They movie studios, actors, and production companies make so much money, what’s the harm?”  I wonder how many others said the same thing?  Next, we move on to p2p, yes I have used these as well.  Limewire, Kazaa, Napster, you name it.  Again, did I feel bad?  Nope, but my music collection sure flourished!  Present day torrents are my new thing.  I am of the attitude why pay 10-20 bucks a pop to see a movie at the theater when I can just watch it on my computer?  I often question my ethics, but I always fall back to, “they make enough money!”

“A person may use the copy by playing it, but he has no right to rob the author of the profit, by multiplying copies and disposing of them for his own use.”


Using Copyright: Right or Wrong?

Since I'm not an owner of copyrighted material, I'm not so sure how copyright owners feel.  In my opinion, being able to share copyrighted material makes our society better.  It's easy to access, which means more people get to things quicker.  I believe that as long as people acknowledge and attribute the material they are borrowing from someone, then there is no problem in using it. 

I know music is a really big thing as far as p2p sharing of music files.  Unfortunately for those music artists, everyone is sharing their music for free.  It's convenient, and it's a society we created because we enjoy things that are free.  It's just the same as crowdsourcing where we take things from amateurs over the pros because it's free.  At the same time, it's beneficial.  Imagine paying your money for a CD just to discover it's trash.  You would be highly upset, and you can't get your money back.  However, if you get the music through p2p sharing, you can hear the entire CD before you decide to purchase it.  True, there are song demos out, but they only give you about 30 seconds of the song.  Also, even though people may like the CD they got through p2p sharing doesn't mean they'll go purchase it.

The problem starts when people are making money off of copyrighted material.  I would definitely have a problem with that especially if I wasn't attributed or wasn't given compensation for the use of my material.  This is why I believe "Walt Disney Creativity" is wrong.  Walt Disney blatantly used material borrowed from someone else without much change in the material.  It only benefited him and his company not Buster Keaton.

At the end of the day, I believe the benefits of remixing and reposting copyrighted material outweighs the harms.  How much is really original material anyways?  We're always using other material in our work even if it's just to prove a point in an academic paper.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Too Far!

As we can see in section 5.5.6 of the Lessig reading, the law has been after those who circumvent or enable piracy/copyright infringement like a dog (but not an Aibo, they can't be reprogrammed to do that- it's illegal!). This is going way too far in my opinion, has been for years, and only seems to be getting worse.

Some more current examples are from Apple and Sony. In Apple's case, they will completely void any warranty you have on your product if they find it hacked, jailbroken, or tinkered with using any 3rd party application. That screen you broke when you dropped it off the Millennium Force while it was still under warranty?-Too bad, you installed a 3rd party hack that let you change your phone's background and you could have installed something to say, pirate media, therefore you must be punished or in this case neglected. Even when the hardware failure is their fault, i.e. not an accident, but a factory flaw- they are suddenly not obligated to reimburse you for it because of your software use.

On behalf of Sony's failings, they are currently in a legal battle with a hacker known as GeoHot known for hacking both the iPhone as well as the PS3. After years of being on the market, GeoHot was the first to finally crack the security on the Play Station 3 system, which would open it up for any sort of modifications- emulation, a new OS, and anything else imaginable. While GeoHot never endorsed anything that could link him to encouraging piracy, the recent temporary restraining order (TRO) that Sony wished to impose on him regarding opening up the PlayStation's internal architecture has passed, effectively silencing him regarding anything dealing with Sony, hacking, or even encouraging others to jailbreak their hardware- regardless of their intent.

Unfortunately, whether you are exploring the workings of your bought and paid for devices for evil means or not, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act sides with the corporations who provide and produce the hardware and software you own. Unfortunately, this limits the idea of fair use for the things we buy, as well as free expression for how we use them. So, all in all, the law goes way too far in this regard- punishing the genius people who don't pirate, steal, or even endorse the idea, but only want to learn about and push the limits of our hardware and technology.

(The image for this post is an accidental re-tweet by Sony's publicity guy that contains the encryption key for the PS3. Apparently, he wasn't quite sure what it meant but responded anyway...)

Fair use of Copyright and the Creative Commons System

It is clear that today's copyright laws need some revisions, the addition of the Creative Commons licensing system has helped the situation out for the mean time. I fully understand the concerns of copyright holders, but also feel that a certain amount of slack needs to be given to allow Disney style creativity. A couple years ago I was uploading a short montage of a friend's wedding to YouTube. The montage was set to Frank Sinatra's "Come fly with me," which ended up being detected by YouTube's copyright filter. The audio was automatically stripped out and a message was displayed saying that Warner Music was the owner of the audio clip. This was outrageous, it was just a minute long clip for personal use. If I were to create an album, I would offer a Creative Commons license that allowed the use of the album for personal creative uses. Moby has been one of the first major artists to allow filmmakers to use music in non-profit films (

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is getting better, but Lessig's example of DRM going wrong sticks with me. The Adobe eBook Reader program restricted the functionality of a children's eBook to the point where it said, "This book cannot be read aloud." Even though this was just a poorly worded statement meant to disallow the computer from reading the book aloud, it's still a prime example of why some slack needs to be afforded. Sony is famous for their "Rootkit," installation fiasco that effected computers attempting to play one of their artists discs.

Media companies need to invest more in solutions like Pandora, Netflix (Streaming), and Hulu. The internet has the potential to better connect people with media that might otherwise never hear of it. Pandora is a prime example, it has increased my knowledge of music and range of music I listen to. Netflix has exposed me to some great films that aren't mainstream. Hulu allows me to catch up on the few TV shows I watch without resorting to bittorrent. The internet has helped strip many gatekeepers of their power, the big record labels now have to compete with new independent artists that have found success through YouTube.

The benefits of remixing and reposting copyrighted material do outweigh the harms. The Star Wars Uncut website ( is a great example of using copyrighted works for a non competitive way. Without the ability to experiment with copyrighted works, much of today's science and technical achievements wouldn't have happened. Jack Valenti (MPAA) is wrong to think that copyrights shouldn't expire. Imagine a world where old stories can't be remade without permission, it would kill all Disney style creativity.

The copyright laws need to be updated to reflect today's use of media, but they still need to protect the author from being abused by piracy. As Lawrence Lessig points out, copyrighting has enabled artists and scientists to be assured of an incentive for their hard work. Even Shakespeare had a paywall at his outdoor playhouse.

In his book entitled Free Culture Lawrence Lessig writes,

"Creative work has value; whenever I use, or take, or build upon the creative work of others, I am taking from them something of value. Whenever I take something of value from someone else, I should have their permission. The taking of something of value from someone else without permission is wrong. It is a form of piracy."

Thank your pirates

Oh, how the times have changed. Image by Ioan Sameli, licensed under Creative Commons.

The tragedy of art and economics is that they have to mix. If artists didn't have to live off their work, the possibilities for remixing and adapting each others' work would be almost infinite. Sadly, artists need to make money, and they deserve to. As this article points out, our culture might not have been enriched by so many great artists if they had been unable to make a living from their work. Likewise, publishers who provide us with artists' wonderful work deserve their share of compensation. To that end, copyright law is a good idea. The implementation of copyright law, however, is problematic. As we've seen in the reading, it's an incredibly complex legal minefield. The Center for Social Media's guide to fair use practices is illuminating, but fair use principles still straddle an uncomfortably gray spectrum. And as Lessig outlines with the case of Jesse Jordan, the consequences of violating copyright laws can be shockingly severe.

As an independent game developer, I'm constantly looking for resources in both visual and auditory media. I don't mind asking permission or even paying to include others' work in my own. It's generally a confusing and draining process, though. For instance, I want to include audio by NASA in a game that I plan to release (commercially, mind you). Can I do this without asking permission? NASA's guidelines are vague. Sounds used for "educational" purposes are "generally" not copyrighted. It seems they can be used commercially, as long as NASA's endorsement isn't "explicitly or implicitly" conveyed. In a footnote, the site says NASA's materials aren't copyrighted by default, but if they are, permission should be obtained from the "copyright owner" (presumably...NASA?) According to this download page where I got the sounds from, the material is copyrighted by NASA. I have to ask for permission? I think I've made my point.

So, what's the solution? A unified, simple interface for understanding the copyright laws that apply to a work and the permissions granted, and which provides a way to get permissions. In many ways, Creative Commons does this already, but not everybody uses Creative Commons licenses. The interface should be as prevalent as copyright itself.

As Lessig notes, Copyright in 1790 only covered "books, maps, and charts." Copyright is also automatically applied now, rather than granted on an opt-in basis as it originally was. Copyright law is not the only thing that's changing - the media it governs is as well. The internet has been the most notable change in this respect, allowing artists to distribute video, images, and sound without the use of a publisher. Of course, the internet is a curse as well as a blessing. Piracy is more prevalent than ever. But the last point I want to make is that piracy isn't always bad. Consider these words by author Neil Gaiman: "what you're actually doing is advertising; you're reaching more people, you're raising awareness . . . the biggest thing the web is doing is allowing people to hear things, allowing people to read things, allowing people to see things they might never have otherwise seen" (full interview here). This doesn't justify commercial piracy entirely, but pirates aren't always the enemy. Artists in the digital age face the challenge of adapting piracy into their business model. Shunning it will not be the solution. Invasive DRM is especially not the solution. Thankfully, we are at a new forefront of distribution. Publishers are less a part of the equation, and artists have more control over how they distribute their work. Popular bands like Radiohead have opted for surprising new methods. The Humble Indie Bundle proved to be a success, twice. When people started pirating the Humble Bundle (which could be had for a $.01 minimum cost) via torrents just for convenience's sake, the publishers embraced it and created their own torrent. The burden is on us to learn how to adapt to technology, and to embrace its challenges as well as its advantages.