It’s time to rethink copyright

05 Feb

My friend SuzieQ is an amazing hula-hooper. And, she recently got a fun, new LED hoop that looks soooo cool when she’s hooping in the dark. She lives in another state and wanted to share this with her friends who couldn’t be there in person (like me).

So, our friend Chris had her do some hooping in his basement in the dark while he recorded it, and he posted the videos to YouTube. Now, hooping is really just another form of dance. So, it’s really pertinent that there’s music playing, because that’s what guides the hooper’s movements.

Chris and SuzieQ made a couple of videos with some different music. Here’s one:

But, I can’t post a link to the other one, which they both say is even better. And, that’s because Warner Brothers Music Group is a bunch of assholes.

See, during the other video, Shakedown Street by the Grateful Dead was playing. And, shortly after Chris posted the video to YouTube, he got an email telling him that the song was copyrighted material and he couldn’t use it in his video.

WTF? This irks me in so many ways:

1) The song came from a CD that Chris bought. That gives Chris the right to play it whenever he wants and to let any of his friends hear it when he plays it. It so happens it was playing in the background when he filmed SuzieQ. What is the difference between Chris playing it for me when I’m physically in his basement and when I’m watching a recording of his basement on YouTube?

2) If you search YouTube for Shakedown Street, you will get a ton of hits. Why aren’t all of those people told to take theirs down? If you are going to enforce a rule, you need to enforce it uniformly.

3) What if I’m at a family party and I decide to video tape my niece saying something cute, but what if we have the radio on at the time and Shakedown Street happens to come on while I’m recording?

4) The Grateful Dead allowed fans to audio record their shows and freely share those recordings as long as no money was being made. So, there are millions of copies of live versions of Shakedown Street out there. If Chris had used one of those, he would have been able to keep his video up. But, since he used a version of the song that came from a studio album, he’s told to take it down. But, it’s the EXACT SAME SONG! No matter if it’s performed live or put together in a studio, it was still written and performed by the same people, has the same chords and lyrics. Again, if you’re going to enforce a rule, you need to enforce it uniformly.

The entertainment industry needs to seriously re-think this whole issue of Copyright and piracy in this new digital age. In 2004, Lawrence Lessig published “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity,” which is about this very issue. He’s a Stanford Law professor, so he knows a little something about it.

I really like the analogy he makes in that it’s like spraying DDT to kill a gnat. Yes, everyone recognizes that it is illegal to STEAL someone’s work for your own profit (think Vanilla Ice and Queen/David Bowie). But, honestly, how is Chris and SuzieQ playing Shakedown Street while she hoops going to hurt Warner Music Group? It’s not like people are going to watch that video and decide that they will never, ever buy another copy of that song.

If you’d like to read more on what Lessig has to say, he’s made his book available for free on the ‘net, using a creative commons license. You can find it here.

There’s another essay about this I like by Rick Garlikov here. The entertainment Industry is taking this “remake the Internet before it remakes us” stand by going after people like my friend Chris. But, would the entertainment industry being remade really be a bad thing? Garlikov points out that:

Today on the Internet there are thousands and thousands, if not millions, of sites where people have put up intellectual property for free just because they want people to be able to find and have it. While much of it is trash, there are many good sites that teach about everything from calculus and theoretical physics to practical medical information to the most mundane issues of carpet care and cooking. There was music, literature, and entertainment long before there were recording companies, publishers, and studios. I doubt that music, entertainment, research, and other intellectual, creative endeavors will disappear from the face of civilization even if we have to give up the kind of copyright laws we have now.

I agree. It’s time the current copyright laws, and this “war on piracy” are abolished. Get with the digital age, Warner Music Group, and get off our asses!

1 Comment

Posted by on February 5, 2009 in Rant


One response to “It’s time to rethink copyright

  1. Chris

    February 6, 2009 at 7:50 pm


    I have to say this this really well written. You said everything that I thought and or felt about this whole thing. The comment about your family gathering is key. You know I wonder what happens when they settle this spat between you tube and wmg? Can I take the audio swap of Lee Perry who dont get me wrong rocks. However its not Shakedown street. I hope you at least got to see it once to shakedown lol.. Thanks for your support..


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