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#WTFU - Where's The Fair Use?

Updated on February 26, 2016

I go by my real name on HubPages, as common as it is, but on YouTube I'm known as ShadowGalactica. As both sites are owned by Google, this should not come as a surprise to them, not that anyone actually cares who we are. I started off making anime music videos - poorly. I still only make them in slideshow form, so the only hits I've gotten against my account are for audio and not video. These days I'm branching out into more parody work and lending my voice to an abridged series or two, but I still like to do AMVs when I'm feeling inspired. AMVs are not considered transformative enough for fair use, and that I can understand. If you don't want your music associated with another piece of intellectual property, then I suppose it's your right to have it excluded from public use. However, most YouTube users who are raising their voices as of late have had far worse happen to them for issues that should fall under the heading of fair use.

Before the common disclaimers about not owning the rights to the presented IP and citing fair use, many videos carried the tagline "Don't like? Don't watch!" in the decription. This was done to discourage trolling. Unfortunately, the intellectual property owners have now become the trolls. I was shocked to learn about some of Brad Jones' Midnight Screenings videos being flagged because all they are is him sitting in a car and talking about a movie he'd just seen with his friends. There's nothing there to copyright. Would this have happened if he made written reviews? The medium shouldn't matter. The people responsible should feel foolish and ashamed for falsely lashing out against a critic who didn't like their movie. That opens up another matter altogether: what, if anything, should be safe from copyright trolls? The Midnight Screenings videos are vlogs - video logs of a person discussing or demonstrating something for a global audience. These on their own, in written or video form, are a person's journal entries - content they have created based on their lives. The part that makes the innocent process up for legal debate is the global audience. Offline, media moguls don't care what we say, consume, or present; once it's on the Internet, that's when they have a problem.


The group of abridgers I work with has a private Facebook page for group communication. There we can upload files, including video. The difference here is that the videos we send to each other won't be policed by copyright bots; had we posted everything to YouTube first, they would be policed and removed as quickly as our episodes were. An abridged series needs to use a short clip of the theme song. Even if given permission to use show footage under fair use, the music often remains copyrighted. This is true of FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Soul Eater, and many others. Whether in full or in thirty seconds, the copyright holders don't want it being used. As stated before, it's their right to ask that their music be excluded from use, but wouldn't this be an appropriate use of it seeing as it's already associated with (and sometimes written for) the series? Also, we've often heard the excuse that "It doesn't matter that you're not making money off of it." The issue then becomes that the copyright holders aren't making any money off of your work and feel like they should. Because YouTube executives don't want to deal with all of the claims themselves or hire others to do it, greedy people take advantage of the flawed bot system. I've had multiple claimants for the same piece of music in some of my videos. It can't belong to both of them, can it? One of them has to be falsely claiming revenue by placing ads on my AMVs. For obvious reasons, and I don't dispute the claims since I don't own the music either (just the copy I used in the video), and I don't monetize my videos for myself (AMVs are a hobby, not a business). Those who make truly transformative works should be safe from this nonsense and shouldn't have their monetization stolen.

Copyright problems seem to be holding us as a community back more than they are protecting IP holders. While it's true that we can't always do everything we want, it is keeping us from trying new things and evolving the media even further. I may be more comfortable writing this rather than saying it via web cam, but that doesn't mean I think everyone should do it. I envy those with editing software and the know-how to use it. While I am going to continue playing it safe with my words and my screen grabs, I encourage everyone else out there to keep exploring. Someday we'll get this under control, but for now, be courteous and fight the power.



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