So, tell me about copyright…

I saw, and amplified, a message last night a message entitled "An Open Letter to Taylor Swift", posted on TheNerdyTeacher’s Blog.  The letter was, in essence, an open letter to Ms. Swift asking for permission to use two of her songs in a school production.  The class is working with another school in the area doing an updated version of Romeo and Juliet.

Now, there are a number of alternatives as I see it.  First, they could just go ahead and use the music.  After all, who is going to know?  Maybe the kids or some of the people in the audience.  But, who would know or care that they were just using the music.  After all, the teacher might have purchased production rights from Ms. Swift’s management or the State of Michigan and the USA may have a mechanism for using music in productions.  I know that, for my daughter’s wedding, we had to pay SOCAN fees to the disk jockey / hall for music for the reception.  It’s the right thing to do.  From the SOCAN website, a message to music users indicates "If you play recorded music or hire live musicians to enhance your business, a performing rights licence from SOCAN gives you access to virtually the entire world’s repertoire."

In this case, the teacher is looking for permission to use the music for performance rights.  One might debate the chances of success using Twitter as the tool, but for a student’s perspective, the teacher is going through a process to get permission to legally use the music.  The respect for Ms. Swift’s and her management’s ownership of the materials has to be applauded.

Then, this morning, I ran across this segment posted to YouTube.  It’s entitled "Good Morning America:  Worst Song Ever? Rebecca Black Responds: ‘I Don’t Think I’m the Worst".  It was an interview with a reporter who had interviewed Rebecca Black and her mother about her YouTube video "Friday" which, at the time of this writing had over 39,000,000 views; 54,000 likes and 461,000 dislikes.  I don’t want to get into an evaluation of the video – many artists are using YouTube as a way to self-promote their materials.  Some do it successfully; some not so much.

What I want to get to is the posting of the Good Morning America interview.  It is clearly copied from the television broadcast of the morning show.  If you watch the show, at the very end, you’ll note that ABC claims copyright over the content.  However, this copy is posted on YouTube for all to see by an account other than ABC.  It would seem to me that this is a violation of the copyright protection that ABC has applied to their news program.

A couple of quick YouTube searches reveals lots of videos for "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me".  I can only imagine the questions and conversations that happen in the classroom.  One of the questions that would be fair for the students to ask would be "Why can’t we just YouTube it?"

  • Can you use YouTube videos for Public Performances?  That’s a real can of worms!  Clear as mud here.
  • Can we just put it on a memory key or on a computer and then play it?  Read section 4 here.

One of reasons why public performers do what they do is to make money.  There was a time when you had to purchase music on media at a store.  But, it has changed.  We can now rip the music from this media to play on a computer.  Hey, we don’t even have to buy the media.  We can purchase the music online.  That still delivers royalties to the owner.  Now, the concept that was previously available only by purchase is available now for free on services like YouTube.

ABC doesn’t appear to have a problem with the posting of the interview on the service.  Why should Taylor Swift?  Granted, we’re not exactly talking about the same scenarios here but copyright appears to be at issue in both cases.  Why isn’t it all cut and dried? 

From our perspective, we’re all teachers, not lawyers.  I think of the old saying "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck."  I think that TheNerdyTeacher is to be commended for his respect for the rights of the artist and her music. 

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OTR Links for 03/24/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.