DMCA rules blocking historians, making archivists into criminals

It’s been long known that the anti-copy protection clauses of the DMCA prevent honest folks from doing common “Fair Use” tasks such as backing up DVD’s they already own.

But what about the survival of our culture to future generations?  Are historians allowed to preserve media that’s been copy protected?  The answer currently is no:

So we’re looking at a future where 100% of all major cultural commercial works could be protected with DRM, taking 100% of those works out of the flow of cultural history until they become public domain, at which point they will likely already be lost due to technological obsolescence and media decay. (Interestingly, this will tilt our future understanding of the history of this period toward those works that never relied on DRM for copy protection.)

This status quo is simply unacceptable and must change, or we have to be willing, as a society and a nation, to say goodbye to libraries and the concept of universal public access to knowledge.

It’s time to repeal the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA. It unfairly dictates how consumers can use electronic products they own, and it jeopardizes our cultural history while providing only marginal protections to copyright holders.

Let’s not make this generation the one where cultural scholarship dies.

We need a new Fair Use.

Via The Atlantic

Harlem Shake gets too popular, creates copyright nightmare

In an interesting turn of events, Mad Decent, the label behind Baauer’s Harlem Shake, is in some hot water for uncleared samples in the song.

The song was never intended to be an international hit, premiering on dance label Mad Decent’s non-exclusive imprint, Jeffree’s. That kind of obscurity gives sample-based productions like Harlem Shake protection from copyright owners, but with the song closing in on the one million digital download mark, there’s now real money at stake.

“Protection” really isn’t the right word. Let’s pretend the meme videos never happened. Before the craze, Baauer was in my estimation a bit less popular than Big Chocolate in the Trap scene. With obscurity comes a comforting lack of scrutiny. In the same way that MTI doesn’t check up on every rural high school’s production of Oklahoma to ensure they’re not altering the song order, lawyers don’t simply crawl Soundcloud constantly looking for every possible uncleared sample.

So the small time artist finds security through obscurity – this is the same reason lots of people pull their song or video just as it’s about to go viral; fear of scrutiny. The real story though is one I have heard many professionals echo: if you want to use your work to make money, make sure you own your work. This could be taken as a heed against sketchy managers of bands who demand a share in song rights, or in this case as a hedge against the possibility of mass audience attention to your work.

I tell my students that copyright compliance in your own work isn’t as much a moral issue as it is a business decision. If you’re a hobbyist posting songs for free , you don’t have much to lose – the worst that could happen is your song might get taken down. But suppose Baauer has already cashed his royalty checks, he may end up with some uncomfortable back payments depending on how these negotiations go.

Of course, this whole system could use a better system for encouraging people to register their samples – imagine an alternative that was accessible- something like “no royalties until your sales reach a threshold of 1000 copies or 10,000 plays”.

But alas, the current system simply discourages sampling. I dare you to try to clear a sample for a record you’re not going to sell. The system simply doesn’t know how to handle the modern techniques of beatmakers.

Hopefully Baauer and Mad Decent will still come out of the craze with a hit on their hands, despite this.

Via The Verge


Looks like the New York Times is covering it now too.

The future of copyright should come from the past

From the Constitution of the United States:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to

Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

(Article I, Section 8, Clause 8)

Read today, it’s as if the founders anticipated collaborative and derivative works, or “remixing” if you will.

Apparently, a house representative posted an astute analysis on the pitfalls of our current executions of Copyright law, and within hours the document was removed.  It includes some great points on the original intention of the law, and how current laws actually have become a roadblock for innovation and progress, simply artificially propping up outdated business models.

The required reading can be found here (PDF)