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.

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One Response to “Copywrong”

  1. Mark Says:

    Yes, if — IF — the fairtax could work as advertized it would be fantastic.

    But that’s the whole problem. That’s like saying “If these magic pills can let you use water in your car, that would be fantastic.”

    Fairtax can not possibly work. It would be a monumental disaster. And that’s why I want it to pass.

    I think it would be funny – but also educational. I’m quite certain that I want the fairtax to pass more than any human on earth.

    It would be educational about economics, but even more educational about psychology.

    Maybe if we did the fairtax, and saw what a complete farce it is, we could actually have tax reform that works.

    Fairtax is a house of cards. Remove one card and the whole thing falls apart.

    For example, one card that is particularly absurd, but fairtax relies on it, is that the government can actually pay its own taxes. That the federal government can get money FROM itself.

    Neal Boortz wrote “The federal government ITSELF will become a MAJOR taxpayer.” Page 148 of the fairtax book.

    This is asurd nonsense, there is no other way to say it. The federal government CAN NOT POSSIBLY pay itself a tax, because it has to PAY the tax. SO you can’t count that money as income TO the government.

    As strange as it sounds — that’s exactly what the fairtax does.

    Why does fairtax say it will tax the government? Simple. Because only by pretending to tax the government, can fairtax say it’s revenue neutral. If Boortz and others admitted the government can’t pay itself, they would have to admit that the tax rate would be 40-50%, at least. Just because of that one fallacy.

    Now, maybe a 40% sales tax wouldn’t be so bad. But then Boortz and others couldnt claim the “embedded” taxes are simply “replaced” by this tax, and “its a wash”.

    That “wash” is another whacked out bit of nonsense. But if people are so gullible that they think the federal government can pay itself 500-800 billion dollars, then its hopeless to expect them to see that “its a wash” is utter bullship. It’s not a wash.

    It wouldnt be a “wash” even if by magic the government COULD pay itself 500-800 billion.

    I hope the fairtax passes. Thats the only way to convince the cult like followers of this plan that its nonsense. If this doesnt pass — they will forever believe — like Halle Boppers – that it was the magic answer.

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