The Insanity Of Copyright Law: When Even Professionals Have No Idea They're Breaking The Law

from the is-it-so-easy? dept

My cousin works (year round) for a summer camp. Her husband (who, technically, is also my cousin, but not by blood), works in film & TV production, doing all sorts of work in and around the entertainment industry. He's worked on various movies and TV shows. To help his wife out, he helped set up a website for the camp, and posted a slide show video the camp put together of campers, which he uploaded to YouTube. The video... was set to the music of a very famous major label recording artist. This is the kind of stuff that people do all the time. Because it feels normal and natural and if the music is a part of their lives and was what they experienced when the photos/video were taken, it seems totally natural to include it as backing music for the video.

I received an email from him, however, after he got a note from YouTube about how the video infringes on content from Universal Music. His concern -- and remember, he works in the industry -- was that he knows the camp has an ASCAP license, and he couldn't figure out why that didn't allow him to post the video. He was asking what he should do and if there was any way to make sure the video was legal.

The problem (well, one of many) here is simply that the ASCAP license only covers a limited set of rights under copyright law, and does not cover things like putting music to a video. In fact, without knowing the details, I'd bet that the ASCAP license his camp has really just covers performances at the camp. But, still, here's a guy who works in the industry who naturally assumes that what he's done shouldn't violate copyright law. Because it seems ridiculous to think that it does, especially when the camp that the video is for has "an ASCAP license."

The idea that anyone should need to understand the differences between performance rights and reproduction rights and performance licenses and sync licenses, just to post a fun slide show of a summer camp, doesn't make any sense at all. It's a serious problem borne out of a history of copyright law that was designed for an entirely different purpose. It's supposed to be for commercial infringement, not personal use, and copyright law has been built by simply duct taping on new or different rights every few years as the technology changes. What you get is a hodge podge mess that's impossible for most people to understand, even those who work in the entertainment industry and who that same industry insists only wants ever more draconian copyright law.

The system is hopelessly broken. But rather than looking to fix it, we have Congress trying to duct tape on another batch of rules and rights. What a shame.

Filed Under: copyright, infringement, videos

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2014 @ 3:50pm

    Re: It's not broken

    The problem isn't that people don't understand the stupid laws. It's that the stupid laws exist in the first place. People not understanding is the cause of all the lawsuits. But the laws are so ridiculous and broken they should be scraped. The were designed to stop piracy, all they do is cause problems and 50%+ of the population still get most of their music illegally so it's clearly not working. Scrap the crap laws

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