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Copyright

Davis Guggenheim- What happens when some can pay and others can’t?

Davis Guggenheim made copyright sound scary and complicated.  And after the readings this week, yikes!  As the readings this week suggest, copyright is both a good and a bad thing.  I would not want someone to make money off of my work unfairly but at the same time, I would no mind sharing some things for the sake of art and definitely for educational purposes.  It seems like there are so many loopholes to the law.  But it is good to see that judges are starting to be fair and reasonable in judgments.  Does Fox really need another $10,000 because of someone’s documentary on New York.  I think that is a little greedy.  It seems like there are so many variations on the rule that is could be hard to keep it all straight.

The short video Army of One was an interesting digital story in itself, as it told two stories with one image.  Film is such a long, long process.  I feel for this guy that he started his film in 2002 and he is still dealing with copyright stuff.  As Guggenheim said, great things end up getting cut which is really too bad.  Here is this filmmaker, making a piece of current importance and he is stuck in the bureaucracy of it all.  Kind of takes the fun out of the art and research.

My story is not going to be copyright friendly, something I was aiming for.  At least I can get the concept of it down and change out images later if I need to.  The good news is if I make it big, a high school friend of mine is an entertainment lawyer out in LA.  Maybe he will take pity on the little guy.  I also have someone willing to right music for my films for free.  It is all frustrating and I feel for the artists out there.

Copyright

While creators may have gained more rights, I think the public has lost them. 120 or 95 years from creation, with the possibility of renewal, seems rather ridiculous to me. I can understand the case for infinitely extending the copyright for a corporate logo, like Mickey Mouse… but what benefit does it have to keep the copyright of a book or music for 120 years? The author/creator would be dead and their descendants would be making any money, which probably isn’t much after 100 years. The transfer of copyright by buying or selling also seems somewhat farfetched. What motivates copyright terms to be so long except profit and greed?

I understand that creators may feel ownership over their work and want to control its distribution. This seems like a very human impulse, however, sharing with anyone brings its own risks. Perhaps you took a picture and shared it with a friend that forwarded it onto half a dozen friends because it’s pretty. Suddenly it shows up posted on a social networking site and used by a few dozen people as pretty wallpaper… This seems fundamentally different than deliberate plagiarism from a book into a school paper, which I think copyright exists more for this kind of example.

Where does digital storytelling fit into this? I think we need to consider the limits of ownership in the way of seeing things and also the culture of DST.

Blog Highlights: Copyright

“As we near the stages of completion in our own digital stories, we can certainly see the value in protecting our work and ensuring that we have properly credited the resources from which we drew throughout the creative process. Beyond that, however; the fees, penalties, and restrictions seem to hinder the freedom of creation.” — Lapple

Is it Foreigner Suite (1973) or If I Could Fly (2004) . . . or Viva La Vida (2008)? “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye or makes a buck.” —Bergman

“The prevalent emotions that people describe after this week’s reading are fear, discouragement, and sadness. I’d like to offer an alternative: Rage. Anger and indignation.” —Suiter

“Copyright law involves a weird kind of trade off: how do you balance the need for an artist to have their work seen with the fact that they need to get paid for it?”—Warburton

“So, in short, I definitely think that if copyright protection isn’t dead yet, it may be well on its way.”—Parks

“Actually, if someone had the means to distribute my work and make money off of it, I’m not sure that I would mind. I would never be able to figure out how to use my digital story to sell Clorox.”—Odiorne

“Finding your way through the law is one thing, finding out who own rights is a whole other battle that can be maddening. You REALLY want your piece to get made when you start digging up copyright and trademark information on every image, musical note or prop used in your piece.”—Goodwin

“On the one hand we could use what we want and try to claim fair use and deal with the complaints as they come (if they come). On the other we could totally avoid using anything that is younger than 87 years and not published by the government. Which sometimes means we have far, FAR less to work with than we expected.” —Blaher

“p until this point, I had felt fairly silly asking each one of my interviewees to sign multiple release forms for my project. Now I feel as though you just can’t be too careful in getting permission…and very grateful that I interviewed them in places that provided very basic backgrounds with no need to edit out the corporate logos.”—Janes

“I had a great laugh reading through the article entitled “Copyright Basics,” because twelve pages highlighting the major points could not get any less basic!” —Plumb

“After all of the reading this week on the increasing restrictions of copyright law and the obvious corporate influences on the changes to said law, I’m ready for something completely different. I mean, I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition. . . .. NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION! Our chief weapon is fear. Fear and surprise are our two main weapons… what?” —King

“Overall, reading about copyright made the idea of being creative seem a lot less exciting, and a lot more risky. Unless you are only working with original material, it seems like a lot of effort will need to go into researching and understanding copyright issues before you can publish your efforts.”—Cook

[Comment on Suiter] “Your copyrage blog was the first thing I’ve read regarding copyright that made me smile. It also made me realize that people probably fall into two camps: the rule followers who are stifled by issues such as copyright, and the rebels who create first and ask for forgiveness later, after they’re already famous and could care less if they’re forgiven.”—Cook

“Instead of applying for protection at LoC or letting a production company or distributor handle this task, digital stories seem, more often than not, to be uploaded without any assertion of ownership on behalf of the creator. This new way of self-publishing challenges our older understanding of what publishing even is.”—James

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Copyright

While I did gather a good deal of information on the intricacies and complexities of copyright law, I was still missing a focus on the importance of sharing work and extending its value through the contributions of others.   As we near the stages of completion in our own digital stories, we can certainly see the value in protecting our work and ensuring that we have properly credited the resources from which we drew throughout the creative process.   Beyond that, however; the fees, penalties, and restrictions seem to hinder the freedom of creation.  Rather than focus on the creative process, we are left to run every source through the “usability” test to ensure that we are able to use certain material in our final product.   

To quote from an earlier post, I believe that digital stories come to life through, “… collaborative narratives [that] come to life through an organic and ongoing process of interactivity; its users create and recreate the components and structure of a never-ending story.  Stories exist beyond the finality of words on paper to the endless imagination of its revolving creators.”  Copyright law’s many restrictions and constraints prevent the interactive process from truly thriving.  In a digital world, stories live through countless mediums and the voices of many.  The creative process is such that one person’s idea becomes the focus of another becomes the controversy of another becomes the comic relief of another. The availability of ideas and the freedom to rework and rethink ideas allows the interactive process of storytelling to exist and thus ensures a future of collaborative thinking and creating.  Initiatives such as “open access” and “creative common sense” prove important tools for ensuring the path to the open exchange of creative ideas remains intact.

Copyright – (over)simplified

Since this is a digital story telling class, I thought I’d try my hand at a video post….

click here

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My copyright post…

I posted it over in my blog… I hope that’s okay…

Please click through and read.

COPYRAGE!!!

…And if that title’s not enough to entice you, I’ve included a bit of “original” art that sums up my reaction to this week’s readings pretty well:

My Fair Use Manifesto.

The Spirit of Copyright Law

“It’s an essential characteristic of contemporary art that if it has value, someone will copy it.” – Cory Doctorow

Copyright law involves a weird kind of trade off: how do you balance the need for an artist to have their work seen with the fact that they need to get paid for it? This issue was highlighted in Hilton and Wiley’s Tech Trends article on books. In that story, people were giving out their material on the internet and it was being seen in a way it wouldn’t if it was under copyright law.

As far as digital storytelling, I wonder if the solution isn’t a return to a patronage-type system, where wealthy benefactors buy up work and distribute it freely, much like the Medicis did in commissioning The David–ultimately, all of Florence saw it. Yet a statue is not digital media that can be seen from any computer screen anywhere in the world. One of the problem with this is that digital media can be so widely disseminated and duplicated.

In certain ways, copyright law and its tightening is a really good thing because it recognizes that there is value on creativity and that a living can be made off of creativity. That being said, it is frustrating when people cannot use simple things. Cory Doctorow points out the gross inequities in copyright law when one group of people has teams of lawyers at their disposal and others are operating out of their garage. At the same time, one of the articles with the hip-hop artist pointed out that jazz was sampling for years without any legal retribution. Here, the technology is a problem because the sample is an exact copy of the original. So this is all to say that there is this weird nexus between the current technology and the legal protection, which is based on past technology. This makes following copyright that more onerous and the need to find new solutions that much more necessary to balance creativity.

Is copyright dead?

The thing that keeps popping up in my head as I read about this is – how in the world can copyright laws be maintained in the digital age?

I’ve had a bit of experience with copyright issues in the past. I’ve done years and years of theatre, and there are always questions of royalties and copyrights and when/where/how plays and one-acts can be performed. I’ve also dealt with it in the exhibit creation work I’ve done while interning at museums. The first thing I learned the first day on the job was: always try to find photographs produced by a government agency because they’re in the public domain and we won’t have to shell out a ridiculous amount of money to Time-Life.

But in the digital realm, copyright takes on a completely new life. As I was reading through the “Copyright Basics” article, two things really stood out to me. First was that copyright includes the right “to prepare derivative works based upon the work”. All that I can think about when reading that is the whole fan fiction movement, both the written stories and the recreated mash-ups and other videos that you see on youtube, which I think is a huge subgenre of digital storytelling. While it can initially be brushed off as obsessed fans, it could be considered as breaking copyright law. I guess the real issue would be if they started making money off of it, but if I was a published author, I don’t know if I’d like to have my work torn apart, recreated, and republished on the internet. (That ridiculously awful sequel to “Gone With the Wind” not written by Margaret Mitchell would be an example of this situation gone awry.) But the more I think about it, the more I think that even if the fan fiction authors were making a profit from this, there’s absolutely nothing that the original author could do about it, because how could this be enforced? It’s hard enough for police to catch and prosecute large-scale distributors of online child pornography, much less someone using the internet as a vehicle to break copyright law.

The other thing that stood out to me was that there is no international copyright protection. I think that is really the nail in the coffin when it comes to the efficacy of copyright law. Speaking as someone who has lived with a roommate who is obsessed with finding the cheapest DVDs available, regardless of whether they come in paper envelopes and have Chinese subtitles, I don’t think there’s any way to maintain copyright protection (especially for film and music) in an era where a teenager in Detroit can go online and order pirated CDs from Hong Kong and have them show up in his mailbox three weeks later for 10% the price he would have paid at Best Buy. The situation gets even more hopeless when you consider that you can go online and watched the latest blockbuster on streaming video from a different continent before it’s even hit the theaters. There really doesn’t seem to be any way to enforce this. It wasn’t an issue 50 or even 25 years ago when business out of the scope of US copyright law were incapable of taking US-produced material, pirating it, and selling it back to US consumers. Now, with instant digital access to all points in the globe, that is a reality of the industry that authors and artists are going to have to deal with more and more.

So, in short, I definitely think that if copyright protection isn’t dead yet, it may be well on its way.

Fair Use and the four factors

Below is the four factor fair test used by lawmakers in determining what is fair use.

Four Factor Fair Use Test

Another approach to determining fair use is what is commonly called “the four factor fair use test,” which offers guidelines in terms of the four questions below. If you want to know more about the four factor test, I suggest consulting the University of Texas’s site devoted to this topic, which offers far more detail than I provide here:

  • What is the character of the use? Non-profit, educational use is better (that is, less apt to raise legal red flags) than commercial use.
  • What is the nature of the work to be used? Factual, published material is better than imaginative, creative work.
  • How much of the work will you use? As obvious as this might sound, a small amount is better than more than a large amount.
  • If this kind of use were widespread, what effect would it have on the market for the original? The less your use of the material competes with or takes away from sales, the better.

What I was interested in finding out was how much of a song can I use in my digital story.  What I found is that I can use up to 10% of a song or 30 seconds. This suits me as I only wanted to record part of a riff from John Mayers “Heart Break Warfare” song.

I found this really cool resource for citing works…http://citationmachine.net/

Copyright confuses me

Copyright affects digital storytelling in two ways. First it affects the content of the stories themselves, and second it affects how the stories might be used after they are produced and ‘published’. As far as content goes, it seems like a good guideline is that if you are going to have copyrighted material in your story, you should be using it for something. Apparently, if have the Simpsons playing in the background, that’s dangerous, but if you are discussing the impact of prime-time network cartoons on commercial television, then you are in the realm of Fair Use. At Central Virginia’s Public Television they used to say, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than permission.” This is probably not very good advice, but it is much easier for a copyright holder to know that you want to use something if you point it out to them. There seem to be more pre-release copyright stories than post.

For anyone interested in using film or television works, I can tell you it’s a lot easier to just study government films (but not as exciting). I have been spending a lot of time at the Film and Television sections of the Library of Congress (whose collections is primarily copyrighted or previously copyrighted works) and the National Archives (whose collection is primarily public-domanin government documents and donated materials). At the Library of Congress, it takes about a week, sometimes two, to get the films. You are not allowed to have recording devices in the viewing area. You have to have copies made by the LOC which takes a minimum of three weeks, (that’s ‘rushed’) and it costs around a two hundred dollars for a feature film length copy, not rushed. That’s if you can get copyright approval (luckily the office is down the hall), or permission from the copyright holder (correspondence can take a while).

On the other hand, at the National Archives, almost everything is already copied. You take tapes off the shelf yourself and they have DVD recorders attached to the tape machines. Outside recording devices are also allowed. For the donated materials, there is a little sticker on the box that says ‘materials may be copyrighted.’ I prefer the ‘use at your own risk’ approach. Anyway, copyright restricts access to historical materials. I’m not sure this impacts scholarship or documentary making to much of a degree, but it might? I will probably never profit off anything that I make, but guess I wouldn’t like it much if someone else did. Actually, if someone had the means to distribute my work and make money off of it, I’m not sure that I would mind. I would never be able to figure out how to use my digital story to sell Clorox.

The publishing part is a little confusing for me, but it seems clear that copyright law has little interest in protecting works that are published and not copyrighted, or not renewed. Thus, all the awesome B movies available online, which distracted me from the readings a bit. Creative Commons seems like a good solution. I walk by the copyright office all of the time, but I don’t think I will ever be depositing. What a hassle.