Friday, May 21, 2010

Day Six: Policing Copyright on the Internet

Is copyright an issue?

In researching this blog, we’ve spent way too much time on YouTube; people are just so darned imaginative.

Browsing for a usable video-clip of Sly Stallone starring in the horrible adaptation of Judge Dredd, we came across imaginary fight scenes pitching Robocop against the Terminator or Terminator vs Neo.

This creative sampling of videos - which may also involve changing a sound track or splicing different clips of films together - is apparently known as “mashing.”

Type in “fave movie lines,” for example, and you stumble across a compilation of some of the best one-liners from recent movies – all shambolically woven together. One such home movie carries the heartfelt plea: “Please don’t sue me, I’m not making a dime from this!”

Both Facebook and YouTube raise many issues related to intellectual property. And since learning how to download the goodies available on YouTube, we thought best to consult a neighborhood legal eagle about Internet copyright. (At this point we’d like to throw out our own legal disclaimer about what’s written below…)

Q: Could we get in trouble reproducing images that we’ve downloaded from, say, YouTube?
A: The short answer is that most of your blogging, especially if you aren't gaining commercial benefit directly from the copyrighted materials, is "fair use."

"Fair use" is the magic catch-all phrase here and refers to criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching. This argument stands squarely on the idea that your ‘borrowing’ has a nonprofit or educational purpose. Assuming you stay away from lifting people's copyrights and trying to sell it, you generally will be ok.

Q: If we’re readily borrowing video links from Universal Studios or grabbing images off Google, then what’s to prevent someone from lifting our copy without crediting us?
A: Your works are copyrighted when created. They don't need to be registered. They can only be registered when "published." And "published" is a term of art--there is uncertainty whether blogging is publishing. It's probably not--which makes a lot of your concern about copying others' work moot, but also makes it difficult for you to have copyright protection.

Q: What about "mashing"? Is this illegal and is anyone policing this?
A: This is similar to “sampling” in the music world. If you “mash” something that isn’t protected, then there’s no harm. If you “mash” something that is, then there could be a problem. But, generally, in your case, you could argue “fair use” or “parody.”

Q. Is everything on Google Images safe to use?
A: Using Google Images will not insulate you. In other words, just because they might have an image doesn't mean that they have it legally. Again, however, the first step is (a) whether the matter is protected and (b) whether your use is "fair."

Heavy stuff.

To lighten the somber mood a little, check this out.

Allegedly this guy, Kent "Toast", is the world's fastest clapper. Here he gives us his rendition of the theme from that famous cop show, Hawaii 5-O.

BTW, did you know that the bubbly female cop in Reno 911 is now the celebrity presenter of Clean House?

Posted by: Claire

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