Allow me to say something everyone is thinking: Copyright Law is confusing. For being a mechanism to protect our intellectual property, you certainly have to be quite heady to understand it. On one hand, everything makes sense. You make a work, that work is yours. You register it, you get to keep it as long as you live plus another seventy years. As long as that work is yours, you’re the one who gets to use it and you’re the one who grants permission to people to use it. Seems hunky dory, doesn’t it? Well, then you get exceptions and violations and infringements and fair use and, the next thing you know, you’re on the floor in the fetal position trying to figure out just what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into.
Now, I shall complicate things further. Or, rather, the RIAA shall complicate things further. Former RIAA Chairman and CEO Neil Turkewitz has recently slammed supporters of fair use. What convenient timing, given that Fair Use Week just wrapped up on February 24th.
Turkewitzs outright accuses fair use supporters of demonizing copyright and mocks them for how they perceive fair use as “critical to the interests of society.” He then goes on to declare that fair use supporters do not care about creators on the creative process. He says that by putting their sympathy toward uses that lack social value, they are actually “championing economic inefficiency while using the language of freedom.” Turkewitz seems more intent on one of copyright’s original purposes: giving creators a way to make money from their intellectual property. In his own words:
“If we can succeed in allowing creators to earn a living from their craft, we will have greatly advanced the public interest, and produced a wealth of accessible cultural materials that enrich present and future generations. Now that would be something to celebrate.”
Now for those of us who may not remember, the RIAA is the Recording Industry Association of America. These are the people that certify Gold and Platinum albums. These are the people who try to protect artists from piracy and maintain their rights. These are also the people who went on a witch hunt for people who illegally downloaded music.
So what is there to say about this? Personally, I think it makes sense that a former RIAA executive would have such a stance on fair use. Fair use is that weird, thick, gradient line between legality and illegal activity. And, being a supporter of artists’ rights, I tend to agree with him. All this being said, I do see the other side of the coin. Fair use does have its place. Education thrives on fair use as does hip hop with its history of sampling. The biggest question here is where doe we draw the line?
We all know my feelings on copyright and I say it every week. Copyright is vital to the industry, blah, blah, blah, artists’ rights, blah, blah, protection, blah, blah, revision, blah, blah, you get the point. However, my feelings are still true to this day. It’s not a matter of if we see changes in the copyright law; it’s a matter of when. And, honestly, it can’t come fast enough. We need clearer wording in our copyright law that acknowledges our current technology but can also be adapted and reworked for future technology. We need to make sure artists and creators know what they’re getting into. I may sound like a broken record, but I do have a point. We need to fix the copyright law ASAP.
If you’d like to see the article that prompted this post, click here.
Once again, this has been the view from 214.