The Copyright Complaint that Killed the Rickroll

Content wants to be free! Except here.


Oh, So That’s the History of Copyright

Answering questions like, “Why does George Lucas’s copyright last so long?”

via Mental Floss

The Irony of Social Media and Intellectual Property

Every now and then in this space, I love to play lawyer. It started with the AP/Shepard Fairey spat, and then I had some fun boiling down the Facebook ToS. There’s something about intellectual property that really turns my geek buttons, for some reason. Partially, I think it’s because I think the entire concept is hard to apply universally to online media. When it comes to the things I’ve studied/read about regarding traditional IP, it all just seems a little anachronistic.

Which brings me to an interesting post that I just stumbled across on ReadWriteWeb (and also posted on the Creative Commons blog).

I really like the idea of Creative Commons. When I see a blog with a CC license, what it says to me is, “What I’m writing isn’t necessarily for me to make money; but, hey, I put some time into it, let people know where you got the idea from.”

Why do I write here? I guess I write to throw some ideas out into the blogosphere and see what anyone else has to say. Generally, that’s the motive of most people (although not exclusively by any means) who write in a forum like this and would ever be concerned about where their content ends up.

Hell, if people can’t take what they want out of my content and then continue the conversation, how is it social media?

CC gives people the head’s up on a creator wants their content used, and I think that’s a great idea. I keep thinking about this in terms of Facebook’s gaffe a few weeks ago. The rally cries against Facebook started with the “content producers” who were worried that they couldn’t control it any longer. It wasn’t the run-of-the-mill user who was concerned – until they started hearing about it. When things are clear and communicated up front, it’s better.

I love the concept of CC’s new offering: CC Zero makes the process of waiving all pre-existing copyright guidelines easy. I’d go as far to even call it “Open Source Publishing.” Let’s see a newspaper do *that.*

All “beating a dead-tree-media when it’s down” aside, I think CC helps set the rules for social media. The irony is that I feel that “playing nice” should be the lay of the land. The reason that something in this vein is even required is because copyright law doesn’t have the right applications to online, crowd-generated content. For example, who has the right to the comment on my blog – the user or the facilitator? Someone else entirely?

The big assumption in all of this is that people write things online to be public (just like when you post something to Facebook, you assume that it is actually going out to your social connections). That’s a contradiction to most copywritten content since, in a traditional model, the person you pay for the service is involved in the process. You aren’t paying Google to read this. You’re paying (or someone is) a provider to access the series of tubes to access this site.

Communication law can’t adapt fast enough to changing technology, so, I don’t know when I’ll get my answer. The point is, though, it’s worth thinking about one point: when you create content online, you aren’t expecting it to be simply read. You’re expecting it to be passed along in any of what seems countless ways.

Creative Commons lets that be covered, for the time being. Maybe there will be a precedent that will require more or less of CC’s service. For now? I just want to let you know that I would be delighted for you to use my writing and my ideas. At some point, that’s what this is simply about.

Copyright and Fair Use

Now, I’m proud of this post because not only are my friends the kind who would name this blog, they also are the ones who told me [paraphrased], “If you ever went to jail, it’d probably be for a weak crime like copyright infringement.”

Let’s fire up that Comm Law class real quick and remember the following:

To claim copyright, you must have printed material. So, a photo of Barack Obama taken by one of your staff’s photographers is certainly considered your property.

And what can you do with that?

1) Distribute;
2) Prepare any derived works;
3) Reproduce; or
4) Publically (a) perform or (b) display.

Also, you can sell the rights to do so.

Of course, if you can prove that an individual saw the work, then used it without permission and benefited financially, you can recover and get an injunction in place. That’s the course of action for correcting an infringement.

Some things fall outside of infringement, though. For example. the idea of Fair Use. You know, the one that kind of allows generations of American artists the freedom to take something and artistically reinterpret it. It’s covered by this statement in US Copyright Law [emphasis added by me in this case]:

The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

This comes up because the AP is actually trying to take it to Shepard Fairey over that whole poster that includes a similar pose of the original photo:

You want to talk about Social Media? Has there been anything more social in terms of political comment than this image over the last six months (that didn’t include Alaska, Russia or Tina Fey)? So, don’t go changing your Obamaicon yet. I’m looking forward to AP getting raked over the coals on this. (It’s already started at TechCrunch and FamousDC).