Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Copyrights and You(Tube)

Copyright law pertaining to internet information draws a fine line. It's often hard to tell if something falls under Fair Use Doctrine or not. This issue is particularly relevant on YouTube where new videos are being posted up constantly.

While uploaded full TV episodes and movie clips is typically stomped on pretty quickly by YouTube, what intrigues me is the response to music in YouTube videos. Many, many songs are on Youtube, as well as music videos. Many people attach music to their own videos that they upload as well. Sometimes this is allowed, and sometimes it is not. It seems that the copyright holders have the final say, but in many instances, they seem to allow it. Other times though, a YouTube video's audio will be disabled and there will be a disclaimer about how the original video's music was copyrighted.

Often times, videos uploaded with music to YouTube fail two categories of fair use, according to First of all, when analyzing the "nature of the copyrighted work", music is creative, not factual. Secondly, when analyzing the "amount taken from the copyrighted work", it is often the entire song. If the song is uploaded as a video with no lyrics and no video to go along with it, it seems to me like this is just a blatant copy of a song that people can listen to at their leisure. I wonder if sometime in the future, people will be saying, "Remember when you used to be able to listen to free music on YouTube?"

Copyright issues on YouTube involve more than just music, however. One article this week that particularly interested me was this one: In the article, CBS requests YouTube to remove a video because it is copyrighted by CBS. Who uploaded the video, you ask? Also CBS! A strange turn of events, indeed. The video was of a reporter that apparently was having a stroke on air during the Grammy awards, and for whatever reason, CBS decided they no longer wanted the video on YouTube, no matter who hosted it. Perhaps the copyright excuse was just because they did not want to embarrass one of their reports anymore than she may have already had been. No matter what the reason though, the result seems to be bureaucracy at its finest.

It seems to me that if copyright holders really wanted to crack down on the distribution of their music and videos on YouTube, they probably could. Take the below video, for example; I really don't see how it could fall under fair use because it is simply a free online playback of a copyrighted song. It even uses the album artwork! Now personally, I'm all for these types of videos as I enjoy music, particularly free music, but legally... pretty questionable.

Into the Great Wide Open by Tom Petty

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