Participatory Culture & IP

With digital technologies constantly changing, it should be no surprise that the laws of our country are slow to adapt. YouTube has been at the center of attention when it comes to copyright claims. In 2007, a mother uploaded a video to YouTube that had her toddler dancing around while a Prince song played in the background. Despite the video only being twenty-nine seconds long, it sparked a long legal battle. Universal Music Corp. sent YouTube a take down notice because the song had been playing in the background. Ultimately, this case was resolved by the courts siding with the mother due to fair use.

The dancing baby video along with plenty of other videos on YouTube, raise the question of, “When is it okay to use someone else’s music?” According to fair use, it is acceptable to use copyrighted work as long as the purpose is meant to transform, comment upon, criticize, or parody. The intended purpose of fair use is to protect people against claims of copyright infringement. Although there are protections in place forfair use, it does not stop people from using work outside of the intended purposes of fair use.

Arguably, using music on YouTube videos can be considered as free advertising for the artist. On Twitch.tv, for example, streamers playing video games will have music in the background for their stream. Often times there will be a box in the corner of their stream letting viewers know what song is being played. However, similarly to YouTube, streamers on Twitch have been exposed to copyright claims as well. Some claims have been because of music and the games being played. Streamers and YouTubers alike tend to make profits on their videos/streamers thus, it is no shock the copyright holders would send infringement claims.

The record companies that often hold the copyright for songs. As a business, their goal is to make money. If people are able to get it for free, it being music, games, books, etc., people will not pay for it is the logical assumption. So, if they are getting it for free then the companies are not making money. Everything is becoming increasingly digital and as such, it needs to become easier for people to obtain digital copies. Users on pirating sites have started to tell others that if they like the product then they should buy it. It needs to be reasonable to access content. Several years ago apple CEO Steve Jobs had written an essay on removing DRM on music.

Further, a dilemma involving copyright stems from people creating remixes. For instance, are remixes legal under copyright? “ Remixes do violate the copyright in a pre-existing work, insofar as the act of creating a second work that contains elements of an original work violates both the right of reproduction and the right of communication to the public of the original author.” But remixes can be compliant with copyright as well. Remixes depend on the source material. The people who are getting rich off of copyright tend to be the noncreators. The creatives do it because they enjoy doing it. Remixing has been around a long time and is how people participate in the culture. Thanks, in part, to new media, it is easier than ever before for creatives to reach their market.