David Kirkpatrick

October 11, 2008

If you have an interest in online copyright …

… piracy and what can be considered fair use, go read this essay by Lawrence Lessig at the Wall Street Journal.

I’ve blogged on the idiotic crackdown by both the RIAA and the MPAA on online file trading. There are arguments on both sides — there is some real piracy out there and there’s lot of fair use, with a bit of actual piracy thrown in that actually increases sales by giving consumers a taste of the product.

The fact is the recording and motion picture industries have already lost this war, even as they occasionally win one of their one-sided-legally battles. You could think of pre-digital files as the age of the dinosaur and this new era of data storage and selling/trading/sending as the dawn of the age of the mammal. We know how the original end of that metaphor turned out.

From the link, but do go read the entire piece:

In early February 2007, Stephanie Lenz’s 13-month-old son started dancing. Pushing a walker across her kitchen floor, Holden Lenz started moving to the distinctive beat of a song by Prince, “Let’s Go Crazy.” He had heard the song before. The beat had obviously stuck. So when Holden heard the song again, he did what any sensible 13-month-old would do — he accepted Prince’s invitation and went “crazy” to the beat. Holden’s mom grabbed her camcorder and, for 29 seconds, captured the priceless image of Holden dancing, with the barely discernible Prince playing on a CD player somewhere in the background.

Ms. Lenz wanted her mother to see the film. But you can’t easily email a movie. So she did what any citizen of the 21st century would do: She uploaded the file to YouTube and sent her relatives and friends the link. They watched the video scores of times. It was a perfect YouTube moment: a community of laughs around a homemade video, readily shared with anyone who wanted to watch.

Sometime over the next four months, however, someone from Universal Music Group also watched Holden dance. Universal manages the copyrights of Prince. It fired off a letter to YouTube demanding that it remove the unauthorized “performance” of Prince’s music. YouTube, to avoid liability itself, complied. A spokeswoman for YouTube declined to comment.

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