The title includes, “for now,” because there is a chance that a higher court later down the road overturns this ruling, which is a completely fair ruling but given that more and more courts are based on which side they lean towards there is no telling what will happen five years down the road from this.
Let’s set the stage for a moment – you are with your family at your home just enjoying a good time when suddenly one of your children starts dancing to a song that comes on the radio. You pull out your phone and start recording this cute little dance they are doing. You hear and see all the time other people posting videos of children singing or dancing along to their favorite songs so you figured why not post this up on YouTube to share with your family and friends and the rest of the world.
You see nothing wrong with posting the video so you are quick to upload it right to YouTube and give it a cute title. It quickly garners views and you are getting great comments until one day your video is taken down and you are given a notice about what has happened. Now most people do not have the money to take on giants like YouTube or the people responsible for requesting that the video be taken down so this a unique case.
The person, Stephanie Lenz, decided to do just that and sue Universal Music. This week the US court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit found that copyright holders must consider fair use before requesting that their material be taken down from online services, like YouTube. The case is set to go to trial and will determine just to what extend this means. In the meantime, people who record videos out in public and there is copyright material in the video can rest assure that copyright holders need to consider the conditions of the video do not warrant or allow them to restrict that video from being shown.
Copyright laws are not updated enough to contend with how the internet works today. The laws are still old and do not consider how information, regardless of whether it is protected or not, is handled online. Information wants to be free and copyright laws prevent that from happening. There is a new book out that talks more about what copyright is doing in today’s age and how that affects information and internet use called, “Information doesn’t want to be free.” The author, Cory Doctorow, explains that the openness of the internet has unleashed this creative powerhouse of individuals with their causes but that the laws of copyright hold back much of what they are doing. Someone who is trying to gain attention for their cause might create a little video at home with a powerful song included that is copyrighted and place it on YouTube only to have it taken down later on.
What good does that do for society? The person’s cause and what they are trying to do? Nothing because the motive of profit is the reason these music labels are going around and causing problems. They do not consider their actions in the light of the big picture, only the fact that their “clients are not receiving their fair share of money,” which is a common response in these matters.
If copyright laws were really enforced to the full extent of the law the internet would come to a grinding halt and people would revolt against these laws. The reason for that is that anytime you take work that is protected by law and share it with another friend or repost, like, reblog, revlog, favor, follow, etc you are basically breaking copyright in the truest sense. That is why Tumblr was dealing with so many lawsuits on copyright because people were reblogging things they liked onto their page, which was the whole point of Tumblr to begin with. This means that people with protected works were getting onto a website they didn’t understand how it worked and then getting mad that their work was being “stolen,” when in fact people were just reblogging which tells you that the only reason those people got on Tumblr in the first place was because they heard how popular the medium was and wanted to get in on the action hoping they could make some money. In translation – some old people were butting into a young person’s world and getting mad about how they were doing things and not following how things were done before.
A good way to understand this is by looking at how you access information online. An adult company tried to sue Google on the case that when people did an image search and their photos showed up in the results, Google was breaking copyright law by using their photos in the results page. Google would go on to win the case by stating that the use of the photos was considered fair use and that they were protected. It is very easy to use the internet and not realize how many times you are breaking the law. It seems that photographers in general and artists tend to cause the most trouble when they see their photos used on other sites but it shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s the internet and people want to share what they find and talk about it.
The perfect quote to close all this out with comes from Jessica Litman who said, “Most of us can no longer spend even an hour without colliding with the copyright law.” The reason is that in the past copyright holders, before the internet, held total control over who purchased their stuff and could control it because it was all physical items to be bought, now the internet has changed all that.
Fair Use on YouTube
The case of Ms. Lenz means that people will be able to post videos online with copyright material in them and not worry about it getting taken down, as long as it is used in fair use. The judged ruled that all media companies need to take into account of the fair use before considering any kind of lawsuit or request. The media companies countered with an affirmative defense tactic but the judge found that not to be the case here. This ruling is an important one because it means that copyright holders can not longer go after people who use their material in a way that is not meant for profit motives, in majority of all cases it is simply just good wholesome entertainment.
For those considering that the author of this blog is not considering the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into all the work someone creates, I am. I have been creating a lot of work on my own for years and would rather find that my work is being shared online with others and know that it is helping them achieve what they are pursing in life than putting up a paywall and only helping a handful. Which has a better impact on society?