Everyone Assumes Copyright Only Applies When They Like It

from the silliness-all-around dept

Having written about copyright issues for so long, we've started to notice some trends. For instance, many people try to twist copyright law to the point where it only applies when it helps them, and suddenly doesn't apply when it helps them not to have it apply. In fact, this is so common that many people falsely assume that the same is true of us -- claiming that we'd be pissed if people copied our content (it's the usual retort to those who are unsure of copyright's benefits). Of course, for us, it's not true. If people want to copy our content for fun or for profit, they're free to do so. Yet, it is true that we often see people who should know better freak out when it's "their content" being used. These scenarios never make anyone look good.

You may recall the group NOM, an advocacy group fighting against gay marriage, that we talked about on this site a few weeks ago because of a bogus takedown notice it sent to YouTube on content that it almost certainly did not own the copyright on. NOM also seemed to have no sense of fair use.

How quickly things change.

NOM had no problem then taking 3 seconds of a clip from the blogger known as Perez Hilton and putting it in an advertisement. Perez Hilton the played the role of the copyright bully, sending a highly questionable takedown notice, claiming the 3 seconds was copyright infringement. Except, as pretty much anyone would tell you, the use was almost certainly fair use, and if anyone should know that, it's Perez Hilton. Yet, it was rather amusing to see NOM, just weeks earlier a staunch questionable takedown notice issuer, suddenly finding themselves on the flipside, defending fair use against a DMCA takedown.

And, how quickly things change again. Because just as Hilton is claiming that using 3 seconds of his own video is copyright infringement and not fair use, Ben Sheffner notes that Hilton has posted a 10 minute video of CNN footage, including his own Perez TV overlay and his own pre-roll ad at the beginning, along with a single sentence beneath the video.

Personally, I think both uses should be perfectly fine (the law, as it currently stands, is more likely to accept NOM's use, but not Hilton's), it's still illustrative of the way many people view copyright. It's an issue to protect you, but it's a hindrance when it gets in your way. Of course, we see this quite often with politicians. It's why Nicolas Sarkozy, who is pushing for incredibly strict new laws relating to copyright in France was found to have ignored copyright law when it suited him. We saw the same thing last year when a Canadian politician who was pushing for the Canadian DMCA was caught infringing on copyright himself.

While some claim it's just hypocrisy, I think it actually represents one of the fundamental flaws of copyright itself (or, really, any monopoly system). Monopolies aren't being used to create incentives to create. They're used to stifle others and to "protect." These days, almost everyone uses them and views them as tools of protection rather than an incentive to create. When you get so far away from the entire purpose of copyright law, you have a system ripe for widespread abuse.
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Filed Under: cnn, copyright, fair use, nom, perez hilton, video

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  1. identicon
    Ima Fish, 11 May 2009 @ 7:16pm


    Hey Mike, I made this into a blog post/poll over at Dvorak.org. You might find the results interesting.

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