Universal Uses Copyright To Censor Bad Lip Reading Parody; Why Not Embrace It?

from the bad-lip-reading-war dept

Over the last couple of months I've been hearing more and more about Bad Lip Reading, which is a phenomenally funny site by a guy who takes music videos and video of politicians, and redubs them by (you guessed it) doing a "bad lip reading" of what they might be saying, to make the videos absolutely hilarious (though usually totally nonsensical). It's a little addictive to watch the videos, and every time someone sends me one, I end up going on and watching a bunch of others.

It seems like most of the subjects of these videos (at least the ones who find out about them) find them pretty funny. For example, the singer Michael Buble absolutely loved it when he discovered that BLR had turned his song, "Haven't Met You Yet" into "Russian Unicorn". And that kind of response has led many people to appreciate Buble even more. Seriously, a bunch of folks have been sending me that link and pointing out how Buble really seems so cool about it.

But, of course, not everyone is so cool about such things. A bunch of folks have been sending in this Slashdot snippet about how Universal Music issued a DMCA takedown over BLR's recent video called Dirty Spaceman, which was a bad lip reading of a of Nicki Minaj and will.i.am song and video. It's a little unclear what happened here. The Facebook post that Slashdot links to has been taken down. However, the Slashdot summary states:
Two days ago, Universal Music Group succeeded in getting his parody Dirty Spaceman taken down from YouTube, and despite BLR's efforts to appeal, in his words, 'UMG essentially said "We don't care if you think it's fair use, we want it down."' And YouTube killed it.
The actual details here are important, so it's too bad that no one seems to have them. In a recent interview, the anonymous music producer behind BLR notes that he makes all his own music (so he's not just using the original songs). So there's no infringement on the music. But, of course, the video itself is copyrighted too, so there is a claim there. It's entirely possible that it was caught by YouTube's ContentID filter (i.e., passive catching of infringement, rather than a proactive decision by Universal Music). In fact, if it had been a real DMCA takedown, and BLR filed a counternotice, then UMG's next move would have to be to file a lawsuit if it disagreed with the counternotice. Since that didn't happen, it seems likely that this wasn't the result of a DMCA takedown, but the ContentID filter (which, yes, matches video too).

That said, once he appealed, Universal could have let it go. And, frankly, it should have. Whether or not this actually is "parody" is a bit tricky -- and depends on whether you think the commentary is on the original video. I would argue that it is, and separately argue that if we were to run the basic four factors test on this, you could make a good case that it was fair use (certainly, the BLR video didn't harm the commercial appeal of the original video, a key part of the four factors test).

But, leaving aside the legal issue, let's just talk about the practicality of the whole thing. As the Buble incident showed, embracing this kind of thing wins you fans. Insisting that such a video stays down does the exact opposite. It's emblematic of the sorts of bad decision-making coming out of the major labels like Universal Music these days.

Oh, and of course, in typical Streisand Effect fashion, others have uploaded the video. Amusingly, BLR even included one of the uploads by someone else in his own playlist -- so it's still there if you look on BLR's YouTube... even if the upload wasn't by him.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 8:50am

    They do this all the time on the Mock the Week Newsreel; do they also have to get licenses or is this another example of the law only being used against those who can't afford to defend themselves?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 8:51am

    Youtube is terrified they might get another Viacom lawsuit on their hands -- thus the ContentID filter and the blatant siding with copyright owners on contentious issues.

    I'm curious what their statistics on DMCA takedowns are--do they publish those? I also want to know the success rate of counter-notices, because it sounds like (and from my own personal experience) you have a snowflake's chance in hell of actually getting a takedown decision reversed, no matter how good your argument is.

     

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  3.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    The BLR is one of those addictive, dirty pleasures. It ranks in there with http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ and http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/ as sites that you can only stop watching if someone happens to walk in the room and you are afraid of getting caught watching it.

    My apologies to the people who have now had their whole morning wasted.

     

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  4.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Re:

    A friend of mine knows much more about this then I do, but the guys who make the yugioh abridged show on Youtube has this same problem. They've been taken down at least four times already. Two times they successfully appealed, two times they had to create two new users. From what it looks like, someone in Japan pays people to spend all day flagging the stuff they don't like.

     

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  5.  
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    martyburns (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    Re:

    Thanks for those links! Two more sites added to my favourites :-)

     

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  6.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    Busy

    Universal is too busy playing with their Russian Unicorns to actually see it's fair use. And Google is too busy bending over and letting the copyright unicorns in to actually live by the "Gee, no evil" standard they advertise so much.

     

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  7.  
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    MrWilson, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:19am

    "Why Not Embrace It?"

    Because when you only speak the language of money, if you can't control it or make money off it, you should kill it with fire or nuke it from orbit since it's the only way to be sure that someone else won't make money off it.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:32am

    I would argue that it is, and separately argue that if we were to run the basic four factors test on this, you could make a good case that it was fair use (certainly, the BLR video didn't harm the commercial appeal of the original video, a key part of the four factors test).

    But, but, that's a balancing test. And different judges might reach different results. That means that FAIR USE is a MYTH! And since there's no fair use, it makes no sense to say that this could be fair use.

    I'm just using your stupid, shoddy logic, Mike. (Funny how you disappeared out of that thread rather than explain your position or make any sort of real argument. Why do you always run away???)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:34am

    Re:

    Aack!
    Darn you!!

    Apology accepted.

     

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  10.  
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    Nom du Clavier (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:34am

    Re:

    The whole 'literal video' meme on youtube is pretty funny as well, with people replacing the lyrics to describe what actually happens in the music video.

    e.g. Safety Dance

     

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  11. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:34am

    Masnick gets so embarrassingly burned trying to fry Universal about Sound Exchange's screw-up, that he scours the web looking for something bad to write about them...

    and he comes up with this. LOL.

     

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  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    This is just stupid, anti-copyright FUD from Pirate Mike. "Because it worked for Buble, everyone else in the world is stupid if they choose not to embrace it!" Idiotic. Mike really is just a whiny bitch at heart.

     

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  13.  
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    nowhere (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:46am

    Funniest part

    I think the funniest part about this whole thing is that even though Michael Buble is Canadian, the original video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AJmKkU5POA) for the song that Russian Unicorn is based on is blocked from being watched in Canada.

     

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  14.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re:

    In this guy's case, Tobuscus, his video is actually being used as an official advertisement for Gamestop.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyzIK5MFA94

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    If there is no fair use, then there is no copyright. Laws are only valid if they serve the public interest. If copyright is so strong that obvious, harmless parody is not allowed, then we the public reject the constraint of copyright on our natural ability to copy anything we want.

    If copyright maximalists keep asking for more, or demanding more, or corrupting our elected officials and just paying for more, they justly deserve less or even nothing at all. The entertainment industry created "piracy" like the robber who shot Bruce Wayne's parents created Batman. You only have yourself to blame.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Entirely original work is the answer to:

    "...what recourse if any is available for artists who are caught in this situation?"

    "Artists" who trap themselves into dependency on the works of others will just have to risk Youtube take-downs. The reason prior works are used is to leverage the value that /someone else/ paid for material (video here) and the recognition of well-known names luring to the derived work. That's basically grifting, not artistry.

    Only other point of interest is that Mike is easily captivated by nonsense:
    "...(though usually totally nonsensical). It's a little addictive..."

     

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  17.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re:

    Again with the name calling, again with the non-arguments, again with the complete time wasting.
    If you have something to add to a discussion, then put it up there. Otherwise fuck off if all you're going to do is call people names. Yes, please fuck off, because you are seriously not winning me and others over to your side of the argument if all you can do is repeat "FUD, Pirate Mike, stupid, idiotic, whiny bitch" over and over again.

     

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  18.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:55am

    Re: Entirely original work is the answer to:

    ""Artists" who trap themselves into dependency on the works of others will just have to risk Youtube take-downs. The reason prior works are used is to leverage the value that /someone else/ paid for material (video here) and the recognition of well-known names luring to the derived work. That's basically grifting, not artistry. "

    And I suppose Disney isn't "grifting" by using prior works (Brothers Grimm)?

     

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  19.  
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    Atkray (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re:

    fail

    you forgot the word for the week "slime"

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Rikou, I won't go down to name calling, but I think the first Coward is right. Mike tried very hard to slam Universal, and when it turned out they didn't have anything to do with the issue, he issues an update that was still pretty slippery, and tried to hide behind it. I am not surprised to see Universal get slammed here again today, I would give even money they get hit at least twice more this week as Mike attempts to paint them as the boogie man.

    It makes me wonder if Universal got in the way of one of Mike's "projects", or if this is just another run at kicking the labels to try to build up his new step thing that most people seem to be ignoring.

     

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  21.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Entirely original work is the answer to:

    He didn't take his medicine. When he follows the prescriptions he actually make non-trollish comments. Be a nice guy with him, will you?

    Ahem, Disney denies what you just stated. With passion.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: Entirely original work is the answer to:

    Never! Disney would never take heavily from the public domain then lobby hard to extend copyright and limit the very same public domain that forms the basis of their movies!

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Attorneys in Albuquerque, NM, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:08am

    Attorneys in Albuquerque, NM

    I donít think that they could have a case. If they donít sell the videos why it would be a problem.

     

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  24.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thank you...I think. This is sort of what I and others here are looking for, in comments coming from the other side of the fence. You at least were able to post an explanation of what you believe and why you believed in such.
    Although I don't agree at all with what you say, I personally welcome you to the comments here. Please stay. I want to hear what the other side really thinks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re:

    I am so confused by the anger/hatred here. I bet that if you were around when someone said 'Hey, the world isn't flat' you would be one to proudly call people names and insist that the world is indeed flat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    TechnoMage (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:23am

    The #1 comment on his Youtube "reply" to the video

    Youtube video
    Michael Buble's Response on "Russian Unicorn" by BLR. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp37h0yY4j4&feature=related

    #1 comment "He should do a cover of Russian Unicorn"

    I think I would cry laughing at that, and I know Everything is a Remix would love it

     

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  27.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Um no...I wouldn't insist the world isn't flat. Want to know why? Because I would look at the evidence, see that the evidence supporting "round earth theory" is correct and adjust my views accordingly. I also wouldn't call people names: instead, I'd point out to them the many ways that they are wrong, just like I pointed out in that response.
    In that response, I pointed out that if they want people to come over to their side of the argument/discussion, then they need to stop with the name calling and personal attacks. If Mike is wrong about something, lay out your argument, support it with evidence, and stand by it. Why is it idiotic to not try to replicate Buble's actions? I want to know why its idiotic. Instead, I'm simply told that it is, and that Mike is a whiny bitch. Yeah, great job of convincing me you've done there (sarc-mark)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Jim O (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Count the "Re:"s. He was saying the AC is a flat worlder (not you).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Someantimalwareguy (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re:

    But, but, that's a balancing test. And different judges might reach different results. That means that FAIR USE is a MYTH! And since there's no fair use, it makes no sense to say that this could be fair use.
    Keep preachin' that ol' time religion like the "Drys" did back during prohibition. The more rigid and absurd you get, the stronger the backlash, ridicule, and contempt you will get from the public...

     

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  30.  
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    Jim O (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:45am

    Re: Attorneys in Albuquerque, NM

    Don't you know how much people who run youtube channels get? These guys must be dozen-aires off the backs of hard working REAL artists.

    Note: I admit... dozens of dollars is probably a bit of a high estimate; either way though, that's money that has been ripped from the labels. Do I need to go into zero-sum-games with you New Mexico freetards?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Oct 24th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    *Embarrassed blush* Whoops, I made a mistake! Hey, Anonymous Coward at 10:09! I hereby apologize to you if you thought I was being in any way negative towards you.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 11:40am

    I've seen the BLR stuff and I'm not amused, offended or inspired by any of their videos, except the Obama Trick the Bridesmaid, that's hilarious.

    Let's creep in the frozen aisle and think one thought,
    Trick the bridesmaid and get her to take it off,
    She'll take the mushroom out,
    Unzip the wingflap of love and you can't go wrong.

    Of course I'm sure the commies here wont like someone making fun of their quick CHANGE artist.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 11:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Excuse my fail post, it appears that using the 'less than sign' and the number 3 in a post will wipe out what was said after that part.

    Yes, Rikuo, I indeed was talking to the original AC, and not you. [inserts less than sign plus the number 3 to indicate 'heart you']

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Re:

    I am beginning to understand more and more how the brain of the flat worlders works.

    I totally think that video is hilarious. I enjoy good humor, no matter who is the target.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re:

    re Safety Dance - that was hilarious and the lyrics are better than the original.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    Re:

    It's lame and it sucks... and even Mike admits it's a gray zone... so why is everyone freaking out?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 11:04pm

    Re:

    Damn you, 4 hours I spent there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 24th, 2011 @ 11:12pm

    Re:

    Exactly fair use is not that fair anymore, there is no balancing act, there is only the bias to count own and that is why copyright is so out of touch with reality, just like your mythical unicorn the idea/expression dichotomy that no one seems to agree what is the minimum to be substantial, since 3 notes can be construed as infringement, with no fair use involved I find it amusing that you still believe that those concepts holds any seriousness.

    This is exactly why copyright should not exist in the first place and if it did it should not last life + 95 years, if you are going to use a monopoly and use absurd rules full of holes it should at the very least be very short like a year or so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    jameson, Oct 25th, 2011 @ 3:25am

    were the videos monetized?

    were advertisements being shown on the videos? If yes, then duh. You can't make money on someone elses video without expressed written permission, no matter how hilarious they are. Youtube is full of bs copyright, some groups like Machinima can monetize nearly anything, some machinima directors use big label music in their videos without permission. Yet I remain in the referal program, obtaining permission from a large company is literally impossible without a large audience. Tech dirt should investigate the monopoly machinima holds on youtube. Id love to see some facts, I'm sure many others would too?

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re:

    "This is exactly why copyright should not exist in the first place and if it did it should not last life + 95 years"

    How old is this material? The +95 years rant is meaningless in context, it only goes to show you are so biased against any copyright that you would probably misinterpret the comments and the laws to fit your views.

    Fair use has expanded exponentially in the last 30 years. Do you consider that "fair"?

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU, Oct 27th, 2011 @ 3:19am

    The uploader has not made this video available in your country.
    Sorry about that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Me, Oct 29th, 2011 @ 10:55pm

    Not True, or Reversed

    I watched this today, on Youtube. So this is either inaccurate or the video takedown decision was reversed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Erica, Nov 20th, 2011 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    I actually find all the BLR stuff funny, including the Obama video and all the parodies they've done of the Republican candidates. And I've yet to meet any liberal who doesn't find it funny. It's nonpolitical, in case you haven't noticed. The lipreads are complete nonsequitors. Why the hell would I, a Democrat (which isn't synonymous with "communist," by the way) be offended by that video? What you say only speaks to your incredible ignorance and bias.

     

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  45.  
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    lrobbo (profile), Jun 10th, 2012 @ 8:00am

    Oh man, that site cracked me up

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Kaye, Oct 19th, 2012 @ 5:03pm

    Freedoms

    Thank-you so much for what you do. I recently was introduced to your site and you are "fighting the good fight". You are correct, I will never spend another penny on anything from Universal and have found a new songster to pay. Keep at it folks..you rock!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    ellivaughn (profile), Jan 8th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Re: Entirely original work is the answer to:

    So you're not talking about permission, you're talking about people who claim to be artists who are actually NOT artists (as your quotes imply) BECAUSE they rely "on the works of others." So these artists have no right to the derivative work because they grifted it. Like when Disney makes movies out of stories like The Little Mermaid or Hunchback of Notre Dame...or when a bunch of actors, directors and producers instead of coming up with something ORIGINAL decide to take a book and turn it into a film (a la Twilight, Hunger Games, Fight Club...and a little something called HARRY FUCKING POTTER.)

    All of those folks by virtue of using "the works of others" should not have any rights to create these derivative works (with or without permission because the point in your post is not legal permission it is the relationship between "artistry" and "using the works of others." A relationship that by your logic can not exist because those who use the work of others are NOT artists and what they create is not art and therefore has no artistic protection.

    Someone else made Twilight (Stephenie Meyer) and Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and everyone involved in making the films profited from that work by participating in creating a derivative. Because none of them are original enough to use their own ideas. They had to use someone else's.

    Tell it to Homer and Shakespeare.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    ellivaughn (profile), Jan 8th, 2013 @ 11:50am

    Re:

    Try a proxy like Hide My Ass. Then you can view the content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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