As you may know I made a couple of mash-up videos last year – like for example the Bert and Ernie tries Gangsta Rap video.
I also made a sequel, Ernie proclaims his love for Bert, where I mashed some Sesame Street clips with the song 500 Miles by The Proclaimers.
This type of remixing isn’t exactly the music and film corporations’ favourite part of web culture, and so it had to happen sooner or later; last night I received this message from Youtube:
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
As many of you have probably heard Warner Music Group (WMG) claim that they aren’t being paid enough money by Google for the use of the label’s content on YouTube, and have therefore requested that all of their tracks are to be pulled from the website. As a result YouTube has started muting videos that contain WMG content.
The rights to the original recording of 500 Miles is in the hands of WMG, so YouTube decided to block the video from being viewed.
Was this video satire? I’m thinking yes, or at least that was what I was trying to do when I made it. Therefore it could be protected under the Fair Use-paragraph of the copyright law. However, there are some problems with the term “Fair Use”:
1. It is hard to say beforehand if the video will be accepted as Fair Use or not.
2. It takes a lot of time and money to take it to court, and you might end up losing anyway
YouTube has given me the possibility to make a counter claim on the blocking of the video, but I kind of get the feeling that they don’t really want anyone to use this option:
“There are very few valid reasons for disputing a claim. Submitting an invalid dispute can result in penalties against your account”.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE YOUTUBE VS WMG SITUATION
Even though I can see Warner’s side of the story, I personally think that they are shooting themselves in the foot on this one. Here’s why:
1. Loss of marketing
Youtube is a great way to promote your material, and as Monthy Python’s recent YouTube stunt shows, there is a lot of money to be made if you use these types of services the right way. Of course the Python example might be a symptom of firsts – since they got quite a bit of attention worldwide because of it – but still there is indication that there is money to be made off of YouTube.
2. Loss of customers
The harder you make it for people to find your restaurant, the more likely it is that those people will eat elsewhere instead. You may have the greatest chefs, but the food at other restaurants will probably do if it’s more convenient. The same goes for music and video. WMG’s artists might be good, but there are a million people out there waiting to take their place if the opportunity arise.
And besides. What happened when Napster got shut down? Other services replaced it. What will happen now that Warner demands their content removed? It probably wont be long until it will start showing up elsewhere.
In this instance it also affected the labels artists directly, like when Death Cab for Cutie’s videos stopped working on their own site. The reason? A copyright claim from their own label.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
I’m not going to dispute the claim from WMG, nor am I going to upload the video to other websites. What I will do is continue to support and spread awareness of the Creative Commons alternative to the All Rights Reserved-version of Copyright. Personally I think this is the big cultural battle of our generation; the Rock’n’Roll of the 21st century. As Lawrence Lessig puts it, we are no longer consuming culture the way we did only ten years ago. We are using the cultural products we consume to express ourselves in new ways, and the creation of new material based upon old is a key part. We want to be able to remix culture, not to make money off of it, but to express who we are, what we believe and how we perceive these cultural expressions.
I think the way to free culture lies in showing the big corporation that it is possible for them to make money this way. And as more people start embracing Creative Commons, they will adapt and follow. I don’t know how long it will take, one year, five years maybe ten, but I’m pretty sure that sometime in the future mash ups of the kind of Ernie Proclaims his love for Bert will no longer be considered copyright infringement.