Thursday, March 26, 2009

Copyright and the media.. - this idiots guide..


I went to hear a very clever guy speak yesterday, his name Hubert Best his subject some of the legal issues around media content copyright in the satellite/Internet on demand universe.

And to quote Johnny Nash from that surprisingly deep I can see clearly now song .. 'the more I find out the less I know' (which is so often the case).

Copyright goes back a long time (hundreds of years) and was originally related to written materials only, but it is important to view Intellectual materials as you would any other product that requires labour to construct, it is important to recognise that the property has value which can be sold given away or bequeathed.

Copyright law used to be territorial i.e. English Law was sovereign in England -not so simple now and we have 'long arm statutes' and the 'Berne Convention' (most countries are signatories)

A few points related to the media age that I noted are:

Satellite transmissions violate country borders without any effort - in terms of the law the place of emission is where Royalties should be paid.

You might think the Internet is for e-mail and sending funny pictures in fact even in 2006 around 75% of Internet traffic was a result of file sharing.

There is a gap between the Anglo Saxon(UK & US) world view and European (this might not be news to you) - Europe considers the author as supreme in all things creative -- hence the fact that the French believe colorising should only be allowed if the director says so and the US reckons if its okay with Turner Classic movies 'no problemo'.

US law also favours First amendment (free speech rights) pretty much to the detriment of all other rules - which means it can take bits of films without the copyright owners permission and stitch them together into whatever they like (this in law was highlighted by Yahoo sale of Nazi memorabilia which French law objected to and US courts overruled.)

US also permits what some might consider as violations where the use is 'transformative' (case was Barbie in work of art - Mattel unable to protect the doll)

There used to be two types of rights that went with a piece of 'creative content' the copying bit (mechanical) and the performing bit - what is the Internet - well it's both in that it can carry a performance (near live) but along the way all sorts of copies exist (in all those Cisco boxes and things).

Now the distribution rights for things like books and DVDs actually exhaust - this means I can buy a copy of Harry Pottter and the temple of doom' read it and then sell it on e-bay as a used book.

But I can't do a copy of the previously mentioned book and sell it on e-bay (unless I want to get into legal hot water).

This leads to a sort of kludge for the web where you have a form of copyright that is known as a 'making available right' this covers
1) copying and
2) a kind of distribution that doesn't exhaust (I can't pass it on).

Now these are just the tip of the iceberg - if you're going to get involved in copyright get advice it's a minefield

Digital Britain report will have some thing to say about rights (but probably unlikely to simplify things).

(hope this hasn't given you a headache)
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