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, 4 Jan 2012 @ 7:09am


    Try and stop me. I won't give you FUD, but if anyone wants to make me pay extortion for innocent use of music for personal, non-commercial entertainment, or prevent me from doing such activity in the first place, I can readily make them see the error of their ways in a manner that they will never, ever forget. I am sick and tired of this lawyering bullshit, and if it takes a little directed violence to make it stop, I am perfectly OK with that. The time for pointless debate and legal bantering is long since past, and a few parasitic lawyers in wheelchairs makes a far more persuasive argument for reform. By the way, I have never even posted a video to YouTube, but if I want to, I will do it my way, and anyone who has a problem with that will learn what a problem really is, very quickly.

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