Last week I was asked to speak on the copyright laws and rights for new media to the Global Focus: Media and Communication Technology class in the Graduate program at Northeastern University's College of Professional Studies. Other than the obvious honor in being asked to lecture on such a relevant and contentious subject in these times, I was also a bit intimidated at such a task. Where to start? Where to end?
There is really a loophole to every single law that is out there. Register your work with the copyright offices though the US government (Something I have done with many series of my photographs). It is inexpensive and fairly simple to do, though once this task has been completed.. there are a few things that need to also be considered.
- The creator is not always the owner of the copyright. For example if this media was created on a school campus, or it was created at a company, the school or company may own the rights to this media.
- To actually take action, the first thing the owner should have is their work registered with the copyright office (this is where the ® comes from). They also they copyright information "copyright - year of publication - name". In my case.. ©2009 elisabeth neville and I may or may not add the ® depending on if the specific series HAS been registered with the copyright office yet.
- There is the "orphan works law" which is still pending, as of 2008. If someone uses someone else's media, and shows that they have made enough effort to look for the owner's permission but has not found them, they all bets are off. What is enough effort? That is an objective question. I could Google® somone's name, call the first phone number I find, realize it is a wrong number, write down 5 more Google® searches and that may be considered enough of a search.
- The laws that apply in the USA with copyright, do not necessarially apply in any other country. I may have all of my artwork copyrighted and registered in USA under the copyright office, but if someone in Iran surfs the web, finds an image, downloads it and uses it in a compaign, I could TRY to fight it, but chances are, our government will have absolutely no leg to stand on there.
Here is where, one of the loopholes comes into play. Should this SAME sound track be edited, or a certain about of time (possibly seconds, I do not know the laws of the Amer Music Assoc), or it is spun differently and it is put onto the same audio or video that was previously posted, it may be approved. Why is this? It is now.. LEGAL. Why? It has been edited, and it no longer is the same piece o new media that was copyrighted. (loophole). This would be why, upon surfing that site many times there are funny clips, for example the audio clip of President Obama supposedly calling Kanye West an idiot (or whatever he called or did not call him). As fast as a few people possibly downloaded it and heard it and passed it around and the White House intern was fired, the sound byte was taken down. Whatever office it leaked out of made the legal request, and YouTube as quickly took the link down. With this, they are complying. No legal action need happen.
So, long babling story short... yes, I am at the end.. What did I learn? Copyright laws scare the heck out of me and make me VERY paranoid about every piece that I put out on the web. Every peice I put in a show, and someone could bring a camera to. But do I assume that I am so famous, and good that they would be trying to sell it? NO. I am not so Narcicistic. But, I am finally beginning to feel the paranoia that others have felt for years.