Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill
policy-making, technical standards development, and technological
innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we
know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property
conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of
copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying
and the law, and more.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.
As Al notes in the blog entry, his parody tunes fall under one of the traditional fair use exemptions and as such do not technically require anyone's permission. However, as a matter of his "personal policy" he seeks permission beforehand. In the old days, a tune that didn't appear on an album would be buried somewhere. These days, though, Al could still release his version, "Perform this Way", on YouTube, which is what he did, as well as releasing a free MP3 download of it.
But wait, there's more. News travels by strange means and the upset on the 'nets about Gaga's refusal reached her ears. Where, it seems, it was news to her as well. According to Al's blog update on the situation, Gaga's manager has admitted that he never even sent Al's original request to her. Gaga hadn't refused permission; she wasn't even aware she had been asked.
This is an old lesson, but one that bears repeating. When you hear that $BIGNAME has said or done such-and-such, treat it with a grain of salt. Performers and creative types accrete layers of people around them as they get more famous and as often as not something that's attributed to a Big Name is actually just something a publicist or manager thought would be a good idea. One of the neat things about living in this future is that our new technologies sometimes allow those walls to be pierced, with interesting results.
A few days ago I pointed at the underreported relevance of Viacom v YouTube and the associated ideas of safe harbor and takedown notices. I've since gotten a private communication of frustration from someone who believes Facebook is potentially blocking this kind of arrangement from working.
Here's the gist: this person is responsible for enforcing a contract between his organization and a broadcaster. The broadcaster pays for exclusive rights to film and sell recordings of an event; in return he, acting on behalf of his organization, agrees to help enforce the exclusivity by delivering take-down notices when infringing material (such as home-made recordings of the event) is found. So far so good, all in accord with how the Copyright Act envisions things should go.
The problem comes when people post their videos not to open sites like YouTube, but to walled gardens such as Facebook. The person gets a notification (say, someone sends an email saying "I saw a video of your event on Facebook") but when he goes to Facebook to search for the video he's prevent from searching it. The consequent is that he can't provide an adequate notice to Facebook.
The question to hand is whether sites like Facebook are doing enough to permit copyright holders to issue proper notices. I'm not certain. The notion of friends lists and posting things privately to your friends is inherent in most social sites; I don't want to lose that, nor do I think I want Facebook to be legally required to go on fishing expeditions through user content. On the other hand, if being less open is allowing Facebook to escape responsibilities that more open sites like YouTube have to handle, doesn't that encourage the walled gardens and discourage openness?
I believe that much of this would not have happened if the story hadn't gotten big-press coverage, and it highlights the challenges inherent in monopoly grants such as patents. KV's foolish behavior with its windfall is probably not reason to abolish monopoly grants, but certainly the government should be (more) careful whom it grants a monopoly on what.
Well, um, no. TorrentFreak's post-mortem on the shutdowns indicates that most were back on the net in a few minutes under new domain names. Sometimes it was a simple as changing a .com domain name to a .info or other TLD.
Of course the MPAA and government tout these as "successes" which leads to two possible conclusions. One is that they're just too stupid to understand how the domain naming system works; two is that they're just willfully misleading (that'd be "lying") to the public. Take your pick, and keep this in mind next time you see someone claiming that the COICA bill is a good idea.
I confess that the state of the industry scared me off back then. Well, here we are nearly four years later and the question still remains relevant. The industry is fragmented and disorganized, and one person's experiences may or may not be a good guide to others in what to do, what to avoid, who to do business with, and how it may all turn out. I was reminded of this by Cory Doctorow's latest column for Publisher's Weekly.
In this piece he talks about his own checkered experiences - including run-ins with Createspace - getting his story published and listed in the complicated DIY publishing world we have in 2011. In my social group we have an acronym for this - WoWftVoE. Words of Wisdom from the Voice of Experience.
Post makes the point that the decision to be rendered is potentially ground-breaking for not just YouTube but for the whole "safe harbor" exemptions provided by section 512(c) of the Copyright Act. These exemptions have allowed not just YouTube, but every blog, social site, site that allows user comments, and pretty much the entirety of what is sometimes called "Web 2.0" to flourish in conjunction with, rather than as slave to, copyright restrictions.
Safe harbor basically means that you, or I, or anyone else putting out material on the net or providing hosting for material on the net, can do so freely in good faith and when given information indicating that material we posted or hosted is violating copyrights we can then, post facto, remove that material. Viacom, representing the Cartel in this case, would like that turned around. They'd like to require that sites block material based merely on suspicious labeling, or other external markers. If I upload a photograph of, say, my dog and call it "Lindsey Lohan revealed!" the Cartel thinks that label is sufficient to require the photo hosting site to block my picture until they can inspect it to determine that it's not something Ms Lohan or a professional photographer would have a copyright interest in.
Post has put together a concise "brief" written with Annemarie Bridy and aimed at law professors to help them understand (and presumably educate their students) on just how wrong the Cartel position is. Post points out that pretty much all the successful Web 2.0 sites are American-based and operate pretty much only because they can use the safe harbor provisions to move huge volumes of content quickly. Take away this unhindered flow and... well, you'd have something that much more resembled Egypt, or even the U.K. where, despite a long tradition of radical speaking they have far fewer protections for online speech than we do here.
From a legal-path perspective there are two ways this can go. If the 2nd rules to keep the interpretation of the safe harbor provisions as they are then it would be in agreement with the 9th Circuit and it's extremely unlikely that SCOTUS would grant cert. If the two Circuits disagree, however, that's a standard way to get a case before the Court.