…The Twitter accounts of fans roleplaying Mad Men characters have been restored, after being briefly taken down for supposed copyright infringment. To quote this excellent summary of this issue from The Guardian, “the accounts returned after the show’s marketing department had stepped in to persuade AMC that, whatever the legal standing, it was insane to stop this outpouring of (completely free, you fools) fan-promotion.”
Not everyone’s been so lucky, though. The EFF has been tracking the January takedowns, and they’re calling for YouTube to “not remove videos unless there is a match between the video and audio tracks of a submitted fingerprint.” This would stop the wrongful takedowns of transformative works like vidding, and would also stop a number of other ridiculous deletions. The EFF argues that “adding a soundtrack to your home skateboarding movie is a fair use,” and they’re looking to help people whose work was taken down unfairly.
Colbert: Nobody should take my work and do anything with it that is not approved! Ever ever never ever take anything of mine and remix it! For instance, I will be very angry and possibly litigious if anyone out there takes this interview right here and remixes it with some great dance beat. And it starts showing up in clubs across America.
Actually, there are already some great Colbert (and Colbert/Stewart) vids out there.
One of my favorite Colbert vidders is Di, who’s made vids such as “Bad Day” (which she describes as “a tribute to my hero, the wonderful Stephen Colbert, during his Daily Show years”) as well as the joyful Jon/Stephen vid “All The Small Things.”
As Colbert has recognized, vidding is good for copyright holders: it makes people want to watch your show. It also makes people want to buy your song, because of the new, positive associations with it. (Fans bought Regina Spektor in droves after Lim transformed “Us” into a fannish anthem; see Jonathan Gray’s almost offhand note of how Lim sold Regina’s work to him.)
Vidding is a form of speech: it’s an essay in visual form. There’s a lot of talk in education circles about “the language of new media” and of the importance of learning how to communicate through the media: vidding is a fun, grassroots form of media education. Some vids are of course better than others, but all vids are useful creative exercises: at the very least, vids turn our one-way, read-only culture into a read-write culture. Or as Clay Shirky put it: “A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken.” Increasingly, that screen comes standard with some form of video editing software, too.
We’ve heard from a number of people that YouTube has recently blocked a number of fanvids due to alleged music rights violations. But YouTube also provides a mechanism for vidders to assert their right to fair use: a quick and easy dispute process.
YouTube recognizes that there are legitimate artistic and critical reasons to use copyrighted material, and the online form gives, as a potential reason for dispute: “This video uses copyrighted material in a manner that does not require approval of the copyright holder. It is a fair use under copyright law.” The form also asks you to explain further.
Fair use is a muscle: it gets stronger when you exercise it, so if you believe that your vid is fair use, that it transforms copyrighted material for a new critical or creative purpose, you should dispute the claim.
Here are some resources you might consult to explain why your vid is fair use: