Writing for the Internet: Freedoms versus Infringement
As with all new media, corporations seem hell-bent on restricting the practices of artistic and intellectual expression over the Internet. As the demeaning Copyright School video on YouTube tells us, individual people do not have rights, only the big corporations who push their products into our subconscious and try to sue us for expressing ourselves with it. Their strategy seems to be to saturate the media market and punish anyone they can get their hands on for referencing, citing, or borrowing their material without doing any real damage to them whatsoever. It's just another example of how big media and corporations control the freedoms we're supposed to have within our rights.
1) Pirated audio and video - Some web sites, including YouTube, have become a sort of universal TiVo for which the haves upload material to share with the have nots. The big problem in this case is that some networks that own certain shows have the same material available for free on their own web site. If more networks did this on their own, we would not have such rampant issues with third-party suppliers. Companies who have permission and get paid to live-stream and host videos get take-down notices along with the rest of them because the censors are too uninformed to know the difference and act indiscriminately against everyone they see as in violation of their precious copyright standards. Even if there can be a case made in favor of the networks over money loss, there is less chance of it when the have nots wouldn't be able to give money either way. The solution is better distribution through legal channels and reliance on library circulation and library computers with the proper software to play videos on all network sites.
2) Fair use - Internet reviewers and satirists have been unfairly targeted for a while now. It is within anyone's rights to make public commentary on that which pierces the public consciousness, especially given the purpose that the Internet has as a global village. As long as sources are cited properly, academic papers are allowed to make use of whatever they want. On the Internet, however, this is not so. Whether or not sources have been cited, take-down notices are still issued against works that make use of copyrighted material. Writers are protected, but not talkers with audio visual equipment. Hardly anyone likes to read text reviews on the Internet no matter how many people jump on the Kindle Fire bandwagon. Most would prefer to see and hear things dissected and explained to them rather than read about it. This is why we need to protect fair use of copyrighted materials - the Internet is a completely different medium of communication but requires the same protection as all other forms of media. If we haven't figured this out by now, we are morons.
3) Freedom of expression - Freedom of promotion is the better phrase to describe it nowadays since we as a people are saturated with licensed materials and brand names. If people like what you produce and make fan videos using your material, you should be a) flattered and b) thankful for the free publicity. You may sue over libel if the need arises (a legitimate and not a trifling need), but that should be all. You, like all other viewers/media consumers, are entitled to your opinions and free to disagree with the opinions of others, nothing more. Media saturation embeds these copyrighted materials deeply within the public consciousness anyway, so why demand even more money for the result of that? You cannot sue a critic over a bad review, and you cannot put people out of business or in jail for paying homage to you (unless they are stalkers, but paparazzi are considered part of the press and as such have much of the same protections unless they break the law).
4) Freedom of speech - This civil liberty has its limits, especially when it comes to copyrighted material. However, the feds going after uploaders for alleged infringement of copyright is like local law enforcement arresting jaywalkers while the speeders go free; there are better things they could be doing with their time that serve a greater need. For instance, sending death threats through the mail is a felony. If that law were to apply to the online community, all the trolls would be in jail, some for murder if their victims commit suicide. We all know that will never happen, for the bigwigs in charge care more about their corporate sponsors' copyright claims (many of them false) than protecting those who are truly in need of it.
In conclusion, Congress needs to get their facts together and stop harrassing people for doing the inevitable. With the technology that is available to us today as well as the level of media penetration, copyright law has overstepped its bounds and needs to be reigned in somewhat. We don't need the likes of ACTA, SOPA, or PIPA or whatever they decide to come up with next because innocent people have been and will continue to be targeted for alleged copyright infringement while the not-so-innocent continue to do as they please. As they say in Pirates of the Carribbean: At World's End, you can kill me but piracy will continue forever. It's us versus the East India Trading Company, and who came out on top at the end of that movie? If you don't know, "Google" it.
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