Copywrong

Posted on December 16, 2007

1


Oh dear, oh dear…

Another deeply sad (but probably – in the longer term – necessary) moment in the history of the intershed: Lane Hartwell (some pro photographer in SF) has caused widespread irritation (wrath, actually) across the blogosphere by getting the fabulous Bubble video pulled because a couple of pictures in it which she took weren’t credited.

Don’t click the link above, by the way. Pulled, right…? Instead, try this if you haven’t seen it yet (scroll halfway down to the Yahoo! version – working at time of posting).

don’t copyI liked the video too – I got sent a link a week or so ago and sent it on to a few people. We had fun, we admired the cleverness, we laughed (hey, we’re techies – we find this stuff amusing). Bubble 2.0 went viral (#1 YouTube video for a bit). Then we all found other stuff to do and went elsewhere. End of.

Then the lawsuits begin. Hartwell contacts YouTube (via her lawyers), who are frightened enough to take the video down. Bloggers pick up on it. Everyone gets cross.

Here’s the funny thing: everyone ends up with less, apart from the legal types:

1. Hartwell loses a stack of cash paying her lawyers, and doesn’t exactly end up looking terribly good..
2. Video producers Richter Scales lose: they have to issue an apology and go through the video, adding credits for every picture used
3. YouTube loses traffic as well as credibility (again)
4. End-users miss out on the video (officially, although the links above show you can still get it..)

Not many winners, really, are there?

This is of course far from being a unique example. The endless debate over the rights surrounding music, image watermarking, DRM on video and the whole museum copyright question…all illustrate that these are live issues for many.

We’re in a position where pretty much every computer we own has the capability to copy, amend and distribute any of these media. Windows Media and iTunes let you rip and burn music; we all carry media devices capable of storing images, sounds, video; Photoshop give you the means to airbrush or crop out watermarks; Google gives you access to pretty much any image visible on the web; Seeqpod and other similar services let you search (legally? illegally? who knows?) for mp3’s…

The fact of the matter is, this stuff is going to happen. Continuing to pretend we live in a world where what we produce is sacred just doesn’t wash anymore.

There’s something deeper here: mashing, copying, altering is where the innovation happens and it’s been that way, really, since the web began (anyone want to claim they never copied and pasted some HTML or CSS code…?).

I don’t unfortunately have an instant solution to any of this. If you believe those who apparently know then the whole copyright thing is pretty complex. I’m not too sure it is, but as I’m not paid to produce content (I just do this for the love..), I can afford to be cavalier.

What I do know is that the status quo is entirely flawed and the only way out and up is to have conversations instead of legal battles.

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Posted in: content, copyright, museum