Do Your Part, Rights Holders: Open The Vaults!

from the help-the-people-out dept

For those who can stay at home, please do. We’ve all been advised to socially distance — the safest thing anyone can do in their individual capacity.

Of course, stir craziness can set in quite easily. (I’m stuck in my apartment with my dog, and while he’s good company he’s not much for conversation.) This is a great time to catch up on all of the books, shows, movies, and video games you’ve been meaning to read, watch, play, etc.

While each of us is doing our part to stay indoors, rights holders can do their part to make these trying times a little less tedious for the home-bound. How? By making their content freely available for streamers and downloaders.

So we’re clear, I’m not talking about independent artists or those who rely on touring income. These folks are most certainly going to take a hit, and would hopefully be covered by any kind of broad-based stimulus that comes from Congress. (This would also be an excellent time to consider Dean Baker’s proposal to give every American a creative works tax credit to donate to an artist of their choosing. To qualify, the artist would have to make their works public domain).

No, I’m talking about the collectors of passive income, those who actually hold the rights to the content: Disney, Netflix, CBS, NBC, Amazon, etc. Rights holders for video games, like Bethesda Studios, Paradox, EA, and Activision could also help. Even if they don’t want to release relatively new titles, this would be a great time to make older games free for all to stream, download, and play. Audible should also give everyone a few free downloads, and a few free months of Kindle Unlimited would go a long way.

Now would also be a great time to release the directors’ cuts or other deleted scenes that never made it to the theater or online. I personally would love to see the older versions of Rogue One or the rumored J.J. Abrams’s cut of The Rise of Skywalker, and I’m sure there are lots of other clips left on the cutting room floor that fans would love to hear.

More controversially, I implore all major rights holders to forgo prosecutions for torrenting, streaming, and other forms of infringement during these times. If illegally streaming keeps someone indoors, then let them stream.

The penalties for copyright infringement are astronomical and disproportionate, and simple peer-to-peer file sharing should be decriminalized in the first place (large torrenting sites and streamers are a separate case). But now is not the time for that — a lot of people need just a little bit of joy, and the owners of infringed copyrights must appreciate this.

This is especially true when it comes to going after YouTubers and other online commentators who must make use of others’ content when producing their own. A great deal of their use is fair to begin with, but dealing with a 512 notice or copystrike is the last thing they need on their minds.

This is a time where everyone must sacrifice both for their own personal safety and the safety of others. Rights holders should pitch in and forgo the benefits of the subsidy that has been given to them to make everyone else’s sacrifice a little more bearable.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: amazon, cbs, disney, nbc, netflix

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Comments on “Do Your Part, Rights Holders: Open The Vaults!”

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Rico R. (profile) says:

Viacom's already losing this battle!

I uploaded a fanvid to YouTube yesterday, combining clips of the Nickelodeon show House of Anubis with the song "Don’t You Worry Child" by Swedish House Mafia. Well within the realm of fair use. That didn’t stop Content ID to put claims on behalf of the rights holder of each. I normally let music claims slide for this as long as they’re not blocking the video worldwide. That said, Viacom’s policy did block the video worldwide, which I immediately disputed. I’m just hoping that either they realize this video is in fact a fair use, or they let it slide because now is not the time to be filing DMCA takedown notices. But it’s Viacom, so my hopes aren’t that high.

Rico R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Viacom's already losing this battle!

The same reason why "Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go" is considered fair use. Star Trek elements in isolation would be infringing. The same goes for the Dr. Seuss elements. But in combination, you create a new work that is highly transformative, giving both works new character and insights. The same goes for fanvids. The video clips, in isolation, would be an infringing supercut of various show clips. The soundtrack, in isolation, would be just an infringing re-upload of the existing song. But together, the new work is highly transformative. I like to think of it as a mutual transformation. The song is transformed by the clips, and the clips are transformed by the song.

But I went much further in my dispute than that brief overview. I went over the four statutory fair use factors and explained why the use of the House of Anubis clips (I didn’t dispute the claim on the song) qualifies as fair use. I could repost the dispute here, but instead, I’ll advise you to look at this article from FairUseTube, and while it refers to AMVs, it reflects my own thoughts on the matter of fanvids as well: The only thing I think that’s worth mentioning is there’s part of this particular fanvid of mine where the audio from a video clip is heard over the music, which helps diminish the use of the song as a market substitute.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Viacom's already losing this battle!

"Well within the realm of fair use. That didn’t stop Content ID to put claims on behalf of the rights holder of each."

That’s because bots are incapable of subjective analysis such as that required by fair use, and YouTube are always going to err on the side of rights holders because the reason ContentID exists was to stop Viacom suing them into oblivion (for videos uploaded by Viacom).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Qwertygiy says:

Some are!

It’s a great time to be a sports fan.

The NFL has opened up Gamepass (full replays of every game from 2009-2019) for free until May 31st:

The NBA has opened up League Pass (full replays of every game played in the season, as well as classic games) for free as well:

This one is not so much a new policy: NASCAR has, for the last 5 years or so, uploaded every event to YouTube in full a week after broadcast date. (This amounts to about 500 races, plus qualifying and practice sessions.) They have also been uploading full classic broadcasts every few days.

Four days ago, the official NCAA March Madness Youtube Channel began uploading more classic games to YouTube, and they are still uploading as of a few hours ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

So we’re clear, I’m not talking about independent artists or those who rely on touring income.

Why not? Do we really want to promote Disney et al. over them? The independent artists have a bit of an advantage here. They don’t have to gather large groups in offices and stages, they’ve got a lot of time, and they’ve got an audience. Many have already embraced free distribution, unlike the big companies who obviously use it grudgingly.

creative works tax credit to donate to an artist of their choosing. To qualify, the artist would have to make their works public domain

The public domain condition makes that interesting, but the tax code is complicated enough. The easiest way to expand the public domain would be to charge for copyrights; maybe based on revenue (never profit when dealing with the MAFIAA!), maybe just an exponentially increasing annual fee. That doesn’t explain how independent artists could make money, but it’s not obvious that they need government help—some are even making money by sleeping now.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That doesn’t explain how independent artists could make money,

They make money the way any artist does, and that is by attracting fans who pay them to continue creating and entertaining people. New works and live performances, are valuable to a fab base, old recording not so mush. Indeed the only way to have long life in the music industry, like the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner etc. is to do live performances, and that was true before the Internet, as shown by the Grateful Dead’s approach to bootleg recording of their concerts, as in here’s a feed from the mixing desk.

Copyright on the other hand benefits the middle man, who can use it to gain control over artistic works, and keep most of the income that the work makes. Think Elsevier who have use their control over academic journals to pump their prices and profits, and the do not pay royalties, or editors and reviewers wages, to the point that their is a building revolt in academia against them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

They make money the way any artist does, and that is by attracting fans who pay them to continue creating and entertaining people.

That was the point: it’s their chance to do exactly that. So, let’s not say "major companies, do your part and release stuff for free; independents, sit it out". They’re the ones with the most to gain, and they have a temporary advantage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright is way too long

Look at the Constitution. The copyright clause authorizes patents and copyrights for a limited time. Given that patents are 20 years, and the original length of a copyright was 14 years plus a 14 year extension, there is no possible way of justifying the current copyright terms.

Copyright was intended to give creators exclusive rights to their works for a limited time before they entered the public domain. It wasn’t to give heirs and estates control over the work.

Think about it this way. If a 25-year-old copyrighted a work today, a baby born on this date would almost certainly die before the copyright expired. That is not a limited period of time.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Copyright is way too long

You’re correct, and this does need to be rectified. I think what needs to happen is that the term "limited" now needs to be properly defined. I prefer the one you’re using, when people alive now have a realistic chance of seeing works from when they were born enter the public domain during their lifetime. Others seem to define it as if it expires one year before the heat death of the universe, then it’s "limited". Which definition you choose massively changes the playing field. If copyright is ever to be fixed, this terminology needs to be defined.

Anonymous Coward says:

How to fix copyright

Here are commonsense ways to fix some of the worst copyright extremes.

  1. Retroactive copyright extensions shall be null and void
  2. Copyright renewals shall not be automatic
  3. Public performance after 28 years shall be fair use if you aren’t selling the work
  4. Orphaned works shall be placed into the public domain

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