Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Copyright, Fair Use, and Piracy

This week’s journey into the realm of copyright, fair use, and piracy certainly left my head spinning due to what appeared to be valid concerns and arguments on all sides of the issue.

The “Property” reading segment was the most challenging for me, the author did a good job of breaking down the fundamental differences between the copyright laws beginning in the 1790’s as a way of protecting the works of individual creators, against the publishers, thus giving the creator’s more incentive to do more. Then, he followed the evolution of the copyright laws and what they in fact give us today where: “Every realm is governed by copyright law, whereas before most creativity was not” (p.43). As technology has evolved, so has the ability to find people who infringe on a person’s copyright. Even if they didn’t know it, I certainly didn’t think that fan fiction was an infringement, or that tampering with the computer code on some electronic devices was an infringement as well.

In regards to the fair use issue, especially since I’m and avid YouTube fan, now I’m even more confused. If you take the policies literally, most of what I watch could be a potential Terms of Service Violation. I see music videos posted by private people, people performing songs, and even teaching people how to play their favorite songs – could that be an infringement as well? Are we at the stage where it is legally permissible to sue a person because they are on YouTube giving a lesson on how to play Stairway to Heaven? I hope not, but I’m certainly going to be more careful in the future.

The piracy issue, that seemed pretty black and white to me, I’m certainly guilty of making my share of LimeWire downloads ten years ago, but for the most part I’m clean now. Especially since my brother was one of the people targeted in a massive RIAA sting and he wound up settling out of court for $4,000.00. No downloads for me after that. I don’t have a problem making a back up copy of something for myself, but posting something for the masses to download for free, does still seem like the wrong thing to do.

It has been an interesting ten years watching the evolution of the music business in particular in the face of all the p2p sharing. This isn’t the first time the music industry has had to change its ways. Back in the 1920’s the music industry started suing radio stations for playing music for free. They felt that if it was played for free, nobody would go out an buy it. Funny, how the more things change, the more things stay the same.


  1. Great info I didnt know the stations were sued back then.

  2. Wow. Can't believe you're brother got slammed like that. That has to be a truly sobering experience for anyone who downloads without thinking twice.

  3. Yeah, and the RIAA didn't mess around in their choice of attorneys either, they hired Miller & Canfield from downtown, probably one of the top 3 firms in the state. My brother even talked to my father, who's an attorney who did some digging around on some previous local cases, his advice at the time was, "If they only want $4,000 then pay up."

    The judges weren't sympathetic -or didn't fully understand what exactly this "p2p" thing was- and the RIAA was fully prepared to go to trial on every case not settled on.