Don't Blame One Wal-Mart Employee For Dumb Copyright Comments
from the wrong-target dept
A bunch of folks have submitted this BoingBoing story about a Wal-Mart employee making some dumb (and incorrect) comments concerning copyright to a guy who was trying to scan some century-old photos of his family. Wal-Mart and some other convenience stores have had policies in place for years that they won’t reprint or scan images that might still be under copyright. Yes, it’s a silly policy, but the convenience stores feel they need to do this to avoid ridiculous lawsuits from copyright holders, which we all know are far too common these days. The problem here is copyright law, not necessarily the Wal-Mart policy, no matter how ridiculous the end results are. In fact, Wal-Mart has supported important changes to copyright law, such as an orphan works bill, that would enable it to avoid such liabilities.
So the fact that one slightly ignorant Wal-Mart employee took that policy to an extreme in stopping this guy from scanning century-old photos of his family shouldn’t be seen as Wal-Mart’s problem. It’s a problem of the way copyright works these days, the nature of copyright-related lawsuits these days, and the general culture of “content ownership” that’s being promoted by vested interests that make folks, like the ignorant Wal-Mart employee, think that copyright lasts forever, and scanning 100-year-old photos of your grandparents is copyright infringement. When the entertainment industry is allowed to go into schools with its own “educational” programs on copyright, that pretty much ignore fair use, it should come as no surprise that Wal-Mart workers don’t know what’s going on. So, don’t blame this one Wal-Mart employee — blame the copyright system and the worldview (and legal environment) that its strongest supporters have created.