Thursday, January 19, 2012

Media Fair Use: What do you think?

Here at Digital Diner, we had a great discussion about yesterday's post about SOPA and PIPA.  We talked a little bit about the issues of pirating and reuse of media, although we veered away from the effects of the pending legislation.  Still, it was a really interesting discussion, and we'd like to hear what you think.  In particular, the second video in that post (reposted here) is an interesting mash-up of a whole bunch of movies.  We'd like to hear your opinion about it.  Please read through this post and then add your comments here on the blog.

Please watch the following video:

Hello from ant1mat3rie on Vimeo.

If you aren't familiar with it, watch the original Lionel Richie song:

Observations:  The first video above contains almost no original content.  Visually it is made of short snippets of other (mostly well-known) movies.  It clearly couldn't have been made without borrowing liberally from all those movie scenes.  The music is taken directly from Lionel Richie.  It is unlikely that the creator of this work got permission from any of the original content producers.  Posting this video to the internet essentially constitues a public performance.  It is unlikely that the creator of this video makes any money directly from this video, although it could be argued that it builds their reputation.

So, what do you think?  Is this stealing?  Should the original content producers be compensated for the use of their material?  It takes a lot of time and resources to make a movie, and in fact this video seems to be using the fact that these are popular/famous movies.  It wouldn't be the same if it were made of cut together snippets of home movies without famous actors.  Is the person who created this video doing something ethically or legally questionable?  Is this fair use?

Now look at it from another angle.  Did you enjoy the video?  Does it stand on its own as a piece of art?  Would this video substitute in any way for any of the original movies or music?  I certainly don't think there is a case where I would want to listen to the original music or watch one of the original films, but now I'd just watch this video instead.

Or taking it even further, were any of original content creators harmed by this video?  What did you feel about the old movie clips as you saw them?  It reminded me of some of those movies and actors and made me think that maybe I should go back and watch them.  In a sense it was promoting that body of work.

If you think that the original content producers should be compensated for their material, how far do you push that?  Should the clothing manufacturers be compensated every time their clothes appear on screen?  Should Arnold Schwarzenegger's hair dresser get paid every time he appears in public?

Finally, how do we make laws that allow artists to be fairly compensated for their work, cut down on blatant piracy and still not stifle creative expression?

Please post your opinion in the comments or email us.

1 comment:

  1. I'll bite.

    There's another angle, suggested by your comment about Schwarzenegger. Instead of coming at this issue, starting at the concept of ownership, one might start with physics. 100 years ago, most things that one dealt with, in one's daily life, were difficult to duplicate. That is no longer the case. Duplicating documents, photos, movies, software, and so on, is, fundamentally, trivial. Attempting to build legal and technological barriers to that may be what we'd like but it is likely be fairly difficult. Historically it hasn't worked out so well.

    Perhaps, though, the existence of the multi-purpose computer is just a temporal anomaly, something like the ability to fix your own car. Within the next 10 years, predictions by people like Zittrain and Doctorow might come true. If that happens, perhaps media will be more difficult to copy because it will be available only on platforms that are not easy to reproduce. ...except by large, well-funded organizations.