Longtime readers of Adland know my stance on the dilution of worth when it comes to our collective output, in the form of photographs, written word, code and illustrations. I've long argued that the erosion of respect of the copyright the "big bad guys" such as the ever called upon boogie-man, the Music Corporation, or Hollywood Film company has on their work, will only keep eroding the respect people have for our work, us creative individuals who take photographs, write stories, paint, code apps or create anything at all. With the advent of youtube I was fuming, as the DMCA put into such a mass scale means a copyright owner has to spend oodles of time picking their work off someone else's site, instead of the Big Data Corp™ seeking permission to host the work in the first place, which would make more sense. I would like for the copyright owners, ie; creators of stuffs, to be able to just spend their time creating said stuffs, and not spend their time smacking down people who monetize their stuffs without asking. Not to mention risk getting skewered by trolls for doing so. I know, too logical by half, right?
Well, as if to prove my fears, a newspaper published another newspaper's articles, claiming it was "public domain". Yep, The Newnan Times-Herald ganked an article from Decaturish. Not only that, they were selling access to it in their archives for $1,000, and used this all too familiar excuse when caught out:
“Most authors, including newspapers, seek to have as extensive circulation of their articles as possible so long as appropriate attribution is provided. And any damage to viewership on your site, as a result of our posting the article, would be miniscule.”
Yes, we've all heard that one. Way to miss the point. You're simply supposed to ask first. It's not up to the not-owner of the copyright to stick their finger in the air and guesstimate what they think is going to happen regarding viewership, or whatever. It's not their work, and thus not their judgement call. More importantly, copyright is not based on how many people interact with the work.
This sort of thinking is rampant in the new tech startups, funded with piles of money (as long as the funders are White Men Under Thirty, we are painfully aware). Let's take Rap Genius as an example. You know: the kids who gank lyrics from every musician ever just to "enhance" them, with user-generated linear notes, thereby getting twice as much unpaid work from everyone else. Government-funded NPR spent a podcast fawning over Rapgenius while scoffing at a lyric author whose work was monetized without his consent, because RapGenius are cool guys in Brooklyn with a diamond shaped neon sign on their wall, like OMG, so cool, yo.
But see, Rapgenius isn't just farming lyrics for money to get fawning chicks for free, they also collect "poetry." Like Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, all listed as poems instead of novels. They also have Kerouac's On the Road. Is this kosher? The Estate of Langston Hughes does not list Rap Genius as a website allowed to host his work so an educated guess is "no". They're expanding well beyond rap, with Guided By voices listed under Rock Genius, and testimony before congress under "news." What I wouldn't give to see twentyfive different publishing houses filing a copyright suit each against this site, before they get "too big to fail" a la Facebook, Youtube, and omnipresent Google.
Remember the "good old" days? When there were only a few channels where music could be heard, movies could be distributed through, and news could be read? There were literally a handful of channels on TV. With deregulation in the united States, they actually have fewer channel owners than they did prior to it, and with the internet giving us all a "democratic voice" with our own personal webpages, we're suddenly allowing it to be run over by three major players who will own it all: Google, Yahoo and Apple will control, distribute and own every bit of creative content ever made, including your own personal diary notes and the little black book listing all the best kissers you ever kissed, if we're not careful. When we dismiss the creators rights to their work, their right to sell it or give it away for free to anyone who wants it, we dismiss our own rights to our own personal notes too. And who wins? Not some Indie Label, but the classic corporate BoogieMan, except today his name is Google, Yahoo and Facebook who make you use their channel, building their fortune, just to charge you to reach your own audience today, instead of United Artists or Warner Brothers.