Posts Tagged ‘copyright’

Copywrong

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Jeff comments on a recent kerfuffle in which a Fox affiliate station in Texas did an “ambush” report on a gun owner. The video has been making the rounds in blogs, and the station has since tried very hard to clamp down on it — threatening legal action against people who show or distribute it. He states:

Claiming that ?they?re trying to send it down the memory hole? or saying that ?this is the video they don?t want you to see? utterly fails to justify your act of theft.

When you make a copy of that video, you?re stealing the television station?s property. Just as surely as you would be if you broke into their studio and stole the videotape.

I think there’s a distinction here, Jeff.

Fox was doing a report on gun owners. In the process, the report itself became news. People aren’t distributing this for the subject of the report (that is, guns), but because of the manner in which it was reported.

I see this entirely as fair use. If I post an appropriate clip of the video and talk about my opinion of their “ambush”, I am reporting about Fox itself.

“Here’s a report about gun control” would be stealing it. “Look at how they did this report” is fair use. Yes, context does matter. Invoking copyright to cover up something you did wrong doesn’t fly — or shouldn’t.

It reminds me a bit of Scientologists copyrighting their sacred texts, and then suing the crap out of anybody who says anything publicly about them. (Because to comment on them you actually have to show them to someone, and that violates their copyright….) (And as a side note: any religion that jealously hides what exactly it is they worship is deserving of suspicion.)

The NFL has (or had) a disclaimer on their broadcasts that claimed that (among other things) restating the events of the broadcast without permission was prohibited by copyright law. This is legally absurd, as you cannot copyright an event. That is, you can’t copyright something that happened. A law professor made a short documentary commenting on the legal absurdity of that disclaimer, and showed the disclaimer itself. They immediately sued her for copyright violation, for having shown the copyright statement.

In the United States, copyright is, legally speaking, not there for the sake of the creators directly, but for the good of society in advancing the creation of creative works.

Showing that newsclip might not be good for Fox’s business, but not for reasons covered by copyright. It’s bad because it harms their reputation, not because it steals their creative effort.

Or to put it another way, copyright is there so that creators can have the benefit of their creation, not so they can hide from their actions.