I’ve been pondering this post for a while, I wrote most of this post 36,000 feet above the Atlantic on the way to Palo Alto in a luxurious Lufthansa economy seat, I figured I might as spread out and rant on copyright and social media.
Social media as the champion of the small guy.
Social media loves to make a hero out of someone who stands up to the “evil IP power” of traditional media. Jerry Bowles, one of the leading bloggers on social media recently picked up on the case of Spocko’s Brain. I’ll quote a big part of his post Memo to Enterprises: Fire your Lawyers as the background is important.
…was shut down by its Internet service provider, 1&1 Internet, after Disney ABC Radio complained that Spoko’s posting of audio files from KSFO, a talk-radio station in California’s Bay Area, violated the company’s copyright.
Spocko’s Brain had posted dozens of examples of KSFO right-wing morning drive talk show hosts, who are known for such tasteful exercises as enacting a mock electrocution of New York Times editor Bill Keller in a defective electric chair, calling for the execution of journalists they deem liberal, labeling themselves “pro torture, demanding that callers make fun of Islam and referring to Barack Obama as “Halfafrican.” Spocko also sent letters to KSFO’s advertisers, inquiring if they really wanted their brands associated with the views expressed on the station, and inviting them to listen to program segment audio files posted on the Spocko’s Brain site.
late December, Disney lawyers sent Spocko’s Brain and its ISP, 1&1 a cease-and-desist letter because of alleged copyright violations against the ABC Radio affiliate. 1&1 Internet took the site down entirely on January 2.
Once the dispute became public, much of the blogosphere rushed to Spoko’s defense and dozens of web hosts stepped forward to provide access to the disputed KSFO audio files. The Electronic Frontier Foundation volunteered to defend the blog against legal action. Some of the biggest and most widely read political and media blogs–like DailyKos–provided extensive coverage of the controversy and posted the disputed files, daring Disney to sue them. Selections were posted on YouTube.
So, Disney is the evil empire, not only spewing unpleasant radio, but using copyright to stamp on the precious freedoms of a blogger. Clearly large media companies need to think twice about heavy-handedness when dealing with bloggers. Score one for bloggers I guess. Yes, but…hang on a moment…
It is easy to pick on Disney here, and beating up Disney is fair game when it comes to copyright issues. The reprehensible nature of the material (at least from my standpoint) on the radio station makes Brian’s actions seem very righteous and correct. They may well be, but the legality of his actions, and those of Disney, are for the courts, not the blogjury, to decide.
Where is the problem?
The problem here is not the lawyers, or even Disney, but the law itself. It seems to me that copyright has lost its way. Larry Lessig and many others can eloquently explain why, and suggest some innovative ways to fix it.
But US copyright law was passed into statute by the elected members of the US government. US law as it stands today is a direct result of the interventions of those elected leaders. Lessig looks at the position in Washington after the recent Senate and Congressional elections.
Dems to the Net: “Thanks for the blogs. And please continue to get outraged by MoveOn messages. But don’t think for a second we’re interested in hearing anything beyond the charming wisdom of Jack Valenti. We appreciate your support. We appreciate your money. But come on — you’re all criminals. Don’t expect your criminal ways to be taken seriously by an institution as respected as the US Congress.”
My personal view is that copyright, rather than behaving as originally envisaged, to encourage and reward creativity; has become a powerful tool to protect the business model of large media companies. The media companies have done a brilliant job in lobbying to achieve this. Check out chillingeffects if you would like to learn a bit more, and JP has fabulous posts here and here. Read James on DRM as Communism and DR M as lard.
Politics and social media.
When Scoble and others cosy up to politicians and business leaders with podcasts, these are the issues they should be focusing on.
Where was the question to Edwards about copyright? “Sir, do you believe that US copyright today encourages or inhibits creativity.”
“If you want the vote of the bloggers, then you had better have a plan on DRM, copyright extension, fair use and derivative works!”
Do these blog aware politicians have a position on DRM?
Organisations like the EFF need financial support, not just to bailout noble martyrs and fight individual cases, but to fundamentally improve the legal system. If the rifle owners can shape the gunlaw agenda, then it is high time that those that think copyright isn’t working get their act together.
Apply the power of social media to bring about awareness and to help drive real change. Vigilante behaviour seems cool when it is in a good cause, but it isn’t really.