The copyright law has become one that’s misleading, miscommunicated and overall just plain confusing. Its intention is to protect the original creator of the piece, however there is little communication as to how long copyright lasts, what exactly is copyrighted and what copyrighted pieces are available for the public domain. Confused yet? I know I am!
Luckily for you, my plan today is to explain just that! Here are all things you need to be aware of surrounding copyright.
First of all, it is important to understand what copyright entails. Under copyright, all rights are reserved, permission must be asked to use the material, it has been created to protect the owners and, most importantly, it makes any use of a copyrighted material (without consent) illegal. For example, this:
would be considered an infringement of copyright law as 1. the song is owned by the Universal Music Group and 2. was uploaded without consent.
And that’s where Fair Use comes in. Fair use is intended to recognise the public domain, allow for prosumerism. Prosumerism, as termed by Steve Collins (2008), is the creative blending of media consumption and production, allowing the public domain to become active participants in production. However, copyright owners are able to immediately take down anything they find an infringement without considering fair use, as it is deemed a defence and not a right. But how are people to know if they are using copyrighted material?
Let me introduce you to Creative Commons (CC). CC is designed to make these copyright laws user friendly by helping those with copyright material to tell everyone that they want to allow certain uses of their work to be borrowed. CC creates licences, maintaining that the copyright is still intact, but people are also allowed to make certain uses of it. For example:
This clip is allowed as it is a ‘parody’. You can defend the borrowing of copyrighted material through
1. the nature of the work borrowed
2. the amount borrowed
3. the commercial impact (it cannot change the original’s value in the market)
And why is the current copyright law such a problem?
First of all, copyright used to be accepted for 14years, and then became open to the public domain. This was important as we need to borrow to recreate. However, nowadays copyright laws not only last for the lifetime of the original creator, but also the company they copyright with..aka FOREVER! How is someone to recreate then?
Second, as Standford professor and lawyer Lawrence Lessig noted, the current copyright law is the foundation for a growing extremism for both copyrighters and prosumerists: copyrighters can shut down anything they deem an infringement immediately and in turn, the prosumerists are simply rejecting the copyright laws. And can you blame us?!
Where to from here?
As Lawrence Lessig suggests, we need for the copyrighters to allow non-commercial use of their materials. We also need to heavily decrease the time for which a material is labelled as ‘copyright’ or how will future creativity prosper?
Should these ^^ be considered copyright infringement or recognition of creativity without penalty?