Copyright and Fair Use – Here’s an "Original" Explanation

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  1. What if everyone did a little film using one too many clips from Disney. So, like, about 10,000 short films. They'd need such an army of people to track it all down that they wouldn't have much time for other things, like telling children that their parents are morons . (Have you noticed how many of their films end with the parents Apologizing to the kids and assuring them that they were right all along, and that they should've listened to them in the first place? Oh, brother.) Actually, some of my favorite films have been made by Disney. So, I'm not doggin' their talents. But I have heard that they are a heinously ruthless company. (Get ready for this new Morgan Spurlock film that's coming out. It makes a HUGE slam against Disney. There'll be a big fight over this one. WooHoo!) But, wait a minute… weren't we all discussing copyright? And now I'm off on this big tirade. Opps!Fair use Rocks! I thinks it's great that companies will allow their work to be included in others' projects to a certain extent. The new technologies is really going to rock that world. Like having historical figures say things that they never said. Or, even current figures. That's where it'll get hairy. Does anyone remember the great opening to the Oscars a few years ago? The montage wove through city-streets with isolated scenes and characters from classic films around every corner. That was a beautiful example of what someone could do with Fair Use law. 

  2. If we are going to take Christian media to the next level having a “correct” legal understanding of copyright law is strategically important.  Either that or you’ll experience many law suites (lawyers in suites) on your horizon.  The days when churches could get away with putting whatever music in their services and broadcast and sell it on audio and video tapes is coming to a close.  Most churches/ministries I’ve worked with recently have jumped off the runaway copyright infringement train and made it a moral goal to honor copyrights with: a blanket license for live services (which are cheap with CCLI), no longer recording music on their audio and video media for sale (if not for the grace of God you could have been fined thousands of dollars PER unit!), and buying “sync” licenses for copyrighted music in their television “broadcasts” (that’s right you need permission and a license for copyrighted music in your program – TV/cable stations, that air your show, only have a blanket license with ASCAP/BMI/SESAC who then rely on your cue sheets to pay royalties to the copyright holders and writers).  Whew!  And that's not even beginning to touch what's needed for the internet. Well, that’s what you get when my sister, Kristina, does music clearance.  For more information, she recommended two books that are constantly updated with current copyright laws (available on amazon.com): The Business of Music (M. William Krasilo) and Kohn on Music Licensing (Al Kohn, Bob Kohn).  You also might want to consider hiring a music clearance person.

  3. It's a delightful video, and a great example of fair use.  I really admire all of the work and effort that went into it!

    However …

    I'm afraid I have to disagree with some of the basic ideas underlying the argument.  The video gets the facts right (as far as I understand copyright law – I'm no attorney, no legal advice impled here, yadda yadda yadda) but I think some of his implied/stated premises are suspect.

    First, current copyright law protects an intellectual property for the life of the Author plus seventy years.  I'm not sure how that works when the Author is a fictitous person, such as a Corporation, but I'll buy the 100 years quoted.  And it is also a fact that Disney has long been at the forefront to get copyright terms extended for the specifically selfish reason that they don't want intellectual property they own to fall into the "Public Domain."

    Where I disagree is the idea that the communal public good served by having works of art in the public domain outweighs the Author's right (and that of his heirs) to profit from his intellectual property.  To use the most glaring example driving this debate, I fail to see how our culture is harmed by Mickey Mouse not having fallen into public domain yet.

    As an artist (a musician, writer, and burgeoning filmmaker) I don't agree that the public has a right to my intellectual property – not even seventy years after I'm dead!  The video makes the argument that it is in the public interest for "ideas" to come into the public domain, but copyright explicitly doesn't protect "ideas" – it only protects fixed expressions such as written or filmed or recorded material.

    In other words, a mouse driving a tug boat as an idea can be used by anyone who wants to do an animated film of a mouse driving a tugboat – but the film Tugboat Mickey is a fixed expression that deserves copyright protection, even if that protection lines the pockets of an evil corporation like Disney at the expense of … at the expense of …

    … you know, I still can't figure out who is hurt by longer copyright laws other than people who don't want to have to, you know, actually PAY for the art they use!

     Cheers …     


  4. Calix, I think you bring up a good point. When copyrights were established it was to protect the rights of the individual and not the corporations. Works belonged to the individual who wanted to make money to live on (usually performed for the rich) and then make it available to the masses. Now it becomes a money game when corporations own the copyrights and want everyone to pay. That's why technology and the internet make them nervous – they want their cut.

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