Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Copyright - Walking the tightrope

I have posted here on a number of occasions about copyright, mostly to say how complicated it is - particularly in the digital age. I have also had the occasional rant about the entertainment industry and how their stance is at times counter-productive and sometimes even downright stupid. Here's an example I came across recently. You can decide for yourself if it falls into the latter category...

The example comes from David Colarusso.When I talk to students about the value of digital video in the classroom, I almost always refer them to David's Tabletop Explainer series of YouTube videos. In fact, I usually show them his How To Build An Electric Motor... video (a cross between Blue Peter, Heath Robinson and The Gadget Show!). Recently, I learned from his facebook page that one of his YouTube videos had been taken down because FOX filed a copyright claim against it. You may have to be logged into facebook and/or a friend of David's to see his post, but essentially it shows how he responded to YouTube by claiming "fair use". Thankfully there is a happy ending and the video is now back up:

I think it is a great video. It draws you into some reasonably complex physics in a way that is entertaining and accessible. The animation of the arrows falling is brilliant and the mix of clips and explanation is engaging. Clearly, there is material from the film Speed in the clip but why on earth did FOX feel the need to ask for it to be pulled? In what way was it damaging their profits or their product?

I suspect that what happened was some automated process found the clip and the take down request was generated automatically because when David challenged the request (which I suspect led to the clip being viewed by a person rather than a process), they released their copyright claim. (Again, you may be able to see the image and comment from David from his facebook page.)

The question remains though - is it worth FOX and other copyright holders perusing a zero-tolerance approach to use of their material on YouTube or is such an approach largely counter-productive?


Mosher said...

I would say very much counter-productive. Small snippets are allowed under UK law at least for review purposes. In the US, you're also allowed to rip music off wholesale for parody.

But have a 30 second clip of a baby dancing with a Michael Jackson song playing in the background on the radio in incredibly bad quality and expect laywers to come knocking - as they did for one family a couple of years ago.

Surely a small clip of a film or low quality samples of songs are free advertising? As you said, where's the harm? In fact, without looking I think the UK CD&P Act states that the complainant must suffer financial loss or the defendant make financial gain from the infringement for the case to even be heard.

David said...

It looks like taking a blunderbuss to crack a nut. Fire off enough automatically generated pellets and you might just hit something worth hitting... eventually! I know there is stuff on YouTube that technically breaks copyright but I also suspect that little or any of it is causing the entertainment industry to lose money! I agree with you - free advertising is closer to the mark. Certainly this clip made me think, "I must watch Speed again." - not something I can say I ever thought I'd hear myself think!

Kenneth... said...

Hi David,
I had this problem with Racism KT but followed the process indicated by YouTube and registered the video as being used for an educational purpose and they allowed it to remain on the site. Looking at the fact that it has only been viewed 20 times in the last 12 months I don't think the copyright holders of the music can claim it would impact of royalty earnings.

Another video is Come Little Children that uses a song from Hocus Pocus to accompany some stop frame animation created by some BEd2 students, has never been tagged with a copyright notice. Although that may have something to do with the explosion during it that may prevent any auto detection software from recognising it or that it spoils the music so listeners cant use it to hear music for free.

I think these educational use exemptions are in American copyright law not UK, but I'm not complaining.

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