Copyright is the Way to Innovation

Copyright laws were put and applied to protect “original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression” and in all its forms such as art, literature, music, video, imagery and software that a digital artist is likely to produce (Packard, p175). The Supreme Court stated that originality does not indicate novelty. However, according to copyright laws, if two artists were to create the same product without knowing the work of the other, each of their work is copyrightable. In that sense, copyrighted material is one that is produced by an artist himself and may not be reproduced or reused in any form without the consent of the artist who’s work belongs to. Originality and novelty both hold the same meaning when it comes to copyrighting which is innovation. Many might argue that even though copyright never suppresses speech because it allows innovation. When copyright is well-crafted, appropriately limited, it may reward and strengthen creativity, however, if it was applied carelessly and indiscriminately, it punishes and suppresses creativity and thus freedom of speech (Stoltz, 2014). Copyright is a matter that is not underestimated in this world because it is a universal law agreed on and applied in most countries as a means to protect the digital work of each individual. For that reason, it does not hinder innovation and creativity in the media and cinematic arts, rather it rewards and strengthens it.

The concept of copyrighting and the idea that an author of a work should be able to control how his work is being distributed first emerged during the 18th century. Copyright law gives an author the sole right to copy and distribute his or her work. The Founding Fathers thought copyright laws were so important they included them in the US Constitution: Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution (New Media Rights, 2011). Initially, when copyright laws were applied, it was not put to ensure creative people make money from their work, rather it was put to give an incentive for other artists to create and innovate ideas and material instead of borrowing or using the work of others.

By doing so, this creates space for more creative artists to keep on creating instead of borrowing the work of others. Innovation is being applied simply through this law; whereas today, it is very easy to copy material with the new technologies we have, but copyright laws come to ensure no one is lazy to just copy a tweet, image, video etc. and to give incentives to the people to be creative and innovative. You will find in the figure below, illustrated by Kalan Lyra, a list of what works are subject to copyright laws or not.

An example on the copyright infringement is when both CNN and CBC in November 2014, used without permission a video Alfonzo Cutaia (on the left) posted to YouTube depicting a time lapse of a storm sucking up water from Lake Erie, near Buffalo, New York. He filed a lawsuit against both companies. “A failure to understand how copyright works and the Terms of Service on each social media platform can cost money, reputation and time” (Dubberley, 2016). Here, both stations were not innovative enough to go and shoot the event or its aftermath at least rather they just saw Cutaia’s video and used it. The journalists that did so were just too lazy.

Today, the digital revolution with the features of the system of free expression is to our concern; it makes possible widespread cultural participation and interaction that previously could not have existed on the same scale since we did not have the means to, and it creates new opportunities for limiting and controlling those forms of cultural participation and interaction (Balkin, 2004, p.2). Below is an example of what Twitter would preview when it is reported by the copyright holder.

Giving the means of digital technology that we have today, copyright laws have been questioned since it is now very easy to copy and use any material found on the internet. Daily mail, in 2013, used a video from blogger Croydon Cyclist without his permission. It is important to note that the Daily mail did contact him, but with no reply, they carried on and posted the video anyway (Dubberley, 2016). Here comes the question, do copyright laws with the digital revolution today limit or allow freedom of speech? And the answer to that would be that copyright laws have been put to control and protect the work of others; thus it allows space for others to set out their own opinions and innovate new digital material unlike the Daily Mail who should’ve waited for his consent and then uploaded it to reduce harm or could’ve just created a new video.

The technology we use present a new danger that has been unprecedented in history before were many have become lazy and just use what is available on the web rather being innovative. For that reason, despite the dangers and new challenge, copyright laws are still being applied to try and minimize the harm.

Balkin, J.M. (April 2004). Digital speech and democratic culture: a theory of freedom of expression for the information society.

Dubberly, S. (December 2016). A journalist’s guide to copyright law and eyewitness media.

New Media Rights. (November 2011). What is copyright law, who created it, and why do people think we need it? Retrieved from: https://www.newmediarights.org/business_models/artist/what_copyright_law_who_created_it_and_why_do_people_think_we_need_it

Packard, A. (n.d.). Digital Media Law (2nd Edition): Wiley. p 175. Retrieved from: http://site.ebrary.com/id/10593119?ppg=175

Stoltz, M. (January 2014). Copyright Shouldn’t Be Free Speech’s Blind Spot. Retrieved from: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/01/copyright-shouldnt-be-free-speechs-blind-spot

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