Even Lawyers Are Confused About What's Legal Or Not In The Prince/Radiohead Spat

from the wait-a-second... dept

We were just discussing how copyright has been stretched and twisted so many times that it really just isn't designed properly to handle internet communications -- and a good case in point may be the funny little spat we covered a few weeks back between Prince and Radiohead. If you don't recall, Prince performed a cover of a Radiohead song at a concert. Someone in the audience videotaped it and put the video on YouTube. Prince's representatives demanded that the content be taken down under a DMCA request -- raising all sorts of questions. After all, Prince didn't own the copyright on the song. That's owned by Radiohead, whose lead singer wanted the video back online. Prince didn't own the copyright to the video either, since he didn't take it. So how could he use the DMCA to take down the video?

But, it's not that simple, apparently. As Ethan Ackerman details, as lawyers began to think about the situation, the more confused they got, noting that maybe there was a right under anti-bootlegging laws. Only, then things got more confusing, because it turns out that anti-bootlegging laws aren't actually a part of the copyright act (though it does fall under the same "title" just to add to the confusion), and the DMCA (under which the takedown occurred) only applies to copyright law.

However, again, we're left in a situation where the "law" is hardly clear at all, and even those who follow the space were somewhat confused over whether or not Prince had any sort of legal standing here. A law is not useful if the boundaries of that law are not clear, and if someone has no clue if their actions go against the law. In the internet era, copyright certainly falls under that category of laws in which it is no longer clear what is and is not legal -- and that should be seen as a problem.

Filed Under: confusion, copyright, prince, radiohead


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  1. identicon
    Bob V, 13 Jun 2008 @ 4:55am

    So what now

    After reading countless stories about copyrights the one thing I am left wondering is how can the system be fixed, or even more to the point is it even possible for the system to be fixed. I can write my representatives but I have a complete lack of faith that they have either the willingness or ability to fix the system.

    Through all of the changes that have been written over the years we're now at the point where even the lawyers don't know what the issues are. How can the average person be expected to know whether they are doing anything wrong. Ignorance of the law does not excuse is a principle of our legal system. So where does that put us when even the lawyers are ignorant of the law.

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