> Sharing

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Just wanted post about something that I've been thinking about recently. Over Halloween, I posted about few Unsolved Mysteries ghost episodes from YouTube. A lot of them got taken down (some are still there) because of copyright claims by Cosgrove Media. Not too long ago I got a notice from YouTube saying that one the (very few) videos that I myself had posted had been taken down because of a copyright claim, didn't say for what or from who. I disputed it but never heard back from them, although it is back up now, so I guess it's all good. I don't really blame YouTube for all this, they are just trying to stay out trouble themselves and have to comply to ridiculous copyright laws.

Others have had the audio silenced on their videos. Take The Andrew Sisters and Danny Kaye Civilization (Bongo,Bongo,Bongo) for instance, which was recently used in Fallout 3. From the description:

The Universal Music Group sent a nice message that this record is under copyright still. Appearently in in 1998 The music industry Lobbyied to extend all copyright to 2067 under each states individual law. So any recording made in the last centruy is no longer public domain and any 78 RPM record even though it may be older than a copyright law is now protected. So any record company that posesses these 78 RPM Masters can ask for these videos to come down. Thats is why there is no longer audio.

Are you friggin' KIDDING me? That record is from 1948! How on earth is having this up affecting anyone's sales? All it did was pay homage to music that hasn't been popularly heard in a long time to a new generation of listeners. Btw, you can still check out the same song here, which has been up longer than the silenced one.

As ridiculous as this may seem, in the UK it's worse. There's music industry groups going around telling businesses that they need a license to play music - places like hairdressers, offices, etc. Kwik-Fit mechanics is one such offender:

The PRS claimed that Kwik-Fit mechanics routinely use personal radios while working at service centres across the UK and that music, protected by copyright, could be heard by colleagues and customers.

It is maintained that amounts to the "playing" or "performance" of the music in public and renders the firm guilty of infringing copyright.

What the hell is wrong with these people? How can companies that think of music like that actually be "in-charge" of it? It boggles the mind. What I can't believe is 1) this hasn't been laughed out of court and is actually going to trial (what a waste of money) and 2) companies like the PRS haven't been jailed for extortion.

The music industry in the US has done some pretty ridiculous things, but I haven't heard of them being that silly quite yet. In fact, pretty much all US music companies are now DRM-free, and the US music industry has even stopped suing people (granted they are going to try and make ISPs do their dirty work now, but I suppose it's better than suing 12-yr olds). At first it looked like the UK was going to reject measures to extend copyright (similar to the 1998 US extension), but unfortunately they too have given in. Greed knows no bounds I guess.

Now, about those Unsolved Mysteries videos. I got quite a few messages from people saying that they really liked seeing those videos, they hadn't seen them in years (or at all). My own family gave me the collection of Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts dvds for Christmas. They most likely would have never thought to get me that if I hadn't linked and discussed the videos. Who knows how many other people saw the videos and ended up getting the dvds. Having those up there generated interest and sales. When are companies going to understand this?

The issue of DRM itself is a slightly different, but related issue. Techdirt recently did an article, An Economic Explanation For Why DRM Cannot Open Up New Business Model Opportunities. I think the model it presents can be seen as part of the reason companies shouldn't be silencing internet videos or mechanics:

Economic growth occurs whenever people take resources and rearrange them in ways that are more valuable. A useful metaphor for production in an economy comes from the kitchen. To create valuable final products, we mix inexpensive ingredients together according to a recipe. The cooking one can do is limited by the supply of ingredients, and most cooking in the economy produces undesirable side effects. If economic growth could be achieved only by doing more and more of the same kind of cooking, we would eventually run out of raw materials and suffer from unacceptable levels of pollution and nuisance. Human history teaches us, however, that economic growth springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking. New recipes generally produce fewer unpleasant side effects and generate more economic value per unit of raw material.

Every generation has perceived the limits to growth that finite resources and undesirable side effects would pose if no new recipes or ideas were discovered. And every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas. We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered. The difficulty is the same one we have with compounding. Possibilities do not add up. They multiply.

Allowing people to share, as they always have and always will, generates new possibilities instead of limiting them, helping us grow as a culture.

Check out this fascinating discussion of the drum-beat the "Amen Break" and how it pertains to the issues of sharing, culture, and copyright (a LOT of examples are included, the real discussion starts at about 9:50):

Amen Brother

Warning, some of the language in the music might be NSFW!

Note: Original video was taken down, I've pointed it to a new copy, hopefully this one will stay up.

Finally, here's a great, hilarious explanation of copyright and sharing,:

Disney Copyright Law

Update: Just in case you needed more proof that sharing videos online increases sales... A few months ago the Monty Python guys decided to release their own movies themselves on the internet:

Monty Python Channel on YouTube

I thought it was a brilliant move. Looks like it was: today they announced that Monty Python DVD sales have gone up 23,000%! Just think Cosgrove Media, that could have been you...