Saturday, August 15, 2009

Steal This Blog

An article in last Monday's New York Times reported on the folks from Lego blocking the inclusion of this video, made by a 14-year old in 2007, of a Lego version of Spinal Tap performing their hit "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" from an upcoming live DVD release:

The article states that "As final editing was being done on a concert DVD... which included footage from the video projected on stage, Lego declined to grant permission to use its figures, which are protected by copyright."

Now, it's not completely clear as to whether Lego would have the legal authority to stop what could potentially be protected as "fair use" under copyright law. And it is worth noting that the video continues to exist on YouTube (and, therefore, embedded in this blog), because both Lego and Spinal Tap have deemed it counter to their interests to demand that YouTube remove this particular video to protect their copyrights.

As you probably know, such is not the case with many thousands (millions?) of videos that YouTube has removed because of copyright challenges. To many, the real-world tendency towards heavy-handed copyright law expansion favors corporate interests, often poorly perceived and/or shortsighted, over healthy creative expression. One famous example of this was the squashing of Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, a mash-up of Jay-Z's The Black Album and The Beatles' White Album by EMI, the company that holds The Beatles' rights. And some believe that copyright hubris on the part of the major record companies is the primary reason behind the entire downfall of the record industry.

One of the more vocal and rational opponents to the over-reach of copyright in the age of free-flowing information is Stanford professor and lawyer Lawrence Lessig, whose website and blog provide extended discussion on this and related subjects. Lessig's latest book, Code v.2 is a 400-page treatise on copyright in the internet age, and he invites anyone to download the PDF for free.

Also recommended related to this subject (and more): the most recent episode of Wisconsin Public Radio's program To The Best of Our Knowledge, called Remix Culture. At this link you can stream the episode or link further to the podcast.

This is a discussion which will only become more critical as electronic data transmission and storage continues to become easier, faster, and cheaper. How far do you think copyright laws should go?

1 comment:

Mama E Dub said...

Yep, it's a critical discussion we all need to have, but at my house, right now, it's all about the Lego.

Hee hee. The video was immediately forwarded to several friends who are also parents of four year olds.