Copyright Holders Wield Far Too Much Power
Today’s legal and technical systems give far too much power to copyright holders, in ways that range from annoying to ruinous. Content owners have bulled their way into most every crevasse, dictating unreasonable terms and causing headaches wherever they go–and usually to no good effect.
DRM in HDMI cables, for example, made my brand-new DVR completely unusable for perfectly legal recording of hi-def TV shows, for example. Content providers have litigated their way to getting a cut of blank media sales, extorting who knows how much without even any proof that they lose any sales to piracy. And speaking of extortion, they have started an industry of nuisance lawsuits, preying on people with unreliable IP address identification, forcing them to pay thousands of dollars in what amounts to a shakedown, or face even more than that in legal fees alone. Meanwhile, copy-protection schemes forced on paying users create all kinds of limitations and annoyances–while non-paying pirates have full and free use of media at the highest qualities.
One of the many results of this campaign is policies concerning content-playing services like YouTube, which bend over backwards to please content owners. You may have noticed that if you make a home movie and add a bit of your favorite music to it, YouTube will probably mute the audio or apply restrictions and ads; fair use is not recognized, nor are international variations in law. It doesn’t have to be a directly-applied soundtrack, it can be just a snippet of music playing in the background; that’s enough to have your content taken down on copyright violation grounds.
However, content owners are given far too much leeway. One recent example occurred when a hapless YouTube uploader tried to put up a video of himself outdoors collecting a wild salad. There was no music playing, just this guy talking in a natural setting. The music licensing company Rumblefish demanded the video be taken down. Apparently, the birdsongs in the background were claimed by the company to be part of their copyrighted catalog.
NASA, however, is a more recent victim, with the news services playing the villains. NASA created a video of the LCROSS spacecraft crashing into the moon, and placed in the public domain–as are all NASA videos, being paid for with taxpayer money.
Well, not so much. The Associated Press claimed ownership, and YouTube obligingly conceded, taking down many accounts for “copyright violations” when they uploaded the NASA video to YouTube. One can only guess that the AP simply copyrights all video and audio that they pass on, even public domain content they have no right claiming ownership of.
But that was three years ago–and NASA continues to be plagued. This week, one of NASA’s own videos on NASA’s own YouTube page was claimed as the private property of the Scripps News Service, which had the video taken down.
Scripps eventually apologized for the “mistake,” but the content companies continue their practices of throwing copyright notices over broad swaths of content, whether they actually own it or not, penalizing countless people, many of whom have done nothing wrong–and most of whom constitute no threat or harm to any copyright holders. It has simply become a broad game of marking territory and punishing people without review or standing.