This story is about one of my first real bouts with stifled creativity due to copyright laws a couple of years ago.
In an effort to protect the parties involved, I’m going to be as vague as possible with some exact details.
To summarize, however, I was working on a multimedia package for my journalism job.
I was really excited because not only was I telling an important story, but also because my boss gave me leeway to be creative in both the storytelling and editing.
i did extensive subject research, traveled to collect footage and had an awesome video editor at my disposal.
Given the story’s subject matter, I thought it would be great to close it out with an old Negro spiritual, underlying the audio of the last interview and slowly bringing the volume up as the video went into the credits.
The story included footage from more than one locale in the state.
To tie in the local community angle even more, I asked a local church pastor whether we, the media outlet, could use a 30-second snippet of his church choir singing one of the spirituals.
I was completely taken aback by his answer.
He told me I could use the snippet if I paid $20+ to buy the CD.
I was floored by this answer for two main reasons:
Before we even got into my request, I introduced myself to him.
He claimed he had met many of the young journalists who had worked in the area and he began relaying to me his “knowledge” of some of the downsides of the profession including low pay.
Therefore, I felt it was unreasonable for him to turn right back around and demand I come out of my own pocket to pay for something I only wanted 30 seconds of for work purposes.
This is especially true since I would have been happy to borrow a CD and return it the same day after we’d copied the song we wanted to use.
Secondly, this was an opportunity for his small-town church choir to receive free, widespread publicity for an audience of about 100,000.
Needless to say, I left his church empty-handed, but not discouraged.
Instead, I decided to use 30 seconds of a well-known artist’s emotion-invoking song.
The story received many views and countless compliments.
I still couldn’t help but to think that the pastor’s attitude on sharing the CD robbed him and his choir members from an opportunity to share their work and minister to a wider audience through music.
Instead that same $20+ CD is likely collecting dust in the same box it was sitting in when he pulled it out to sell it to
This idea of creativity being stifled by copyright laws is the idea of this week’s MC 7019 reading
We read Lawrence Lessig’s 2008 book, “Remix.”
Lessing’s book focuses on the “copyright wars” (Lessig, 2008).
In these wars, the “right-thinking sorts mean not the ‘war’ on copyright ‘waged’ by ‘pirates’ but the ‘war’ on ‘piracy,’ which ‘threatens’ the ‘survival’ of certain important American industries.
He writes that his main point is “to get you to see something that is otherwise too often obscure: there are many different ways in which we tax to raise the revenues needed for public goods (as the economist would call
copyrighted works. We select among these different ways the one that is best…we should consider when deciding that is whether the way we select makes our kids criminals…it is one that has plainly been missing from Congress’ consideration about how to best deal with the impact of digital technologies upon traditional copyright industries” (Lessig, 2008).
Lessig clarifies that he is not defending taking others’ content in wholesale for commercial purposes without the permission of the copyright owner, but rather people taking content and using digital technologies to recreate it and say something differently .
Lessig accuses the current system of being “democratized” (Lessig, 2008).
While people of every generation are infringing on the government’s mandated copyright laws, it is especially true of Generation Z.
A digital generation, children born from 1990 to 2010 are tech-savvy.
Their brains are “wired for the fast delivery of content, data, and images from computers, videogames, and the Internet” and educators are “increasingly bringing game design and game theory into education with
continuous grading, continuous feedback, clear goals, rewards, challenges, etc.” (Renfro, 2012).
Despite this obvious relationship between technology and creativity, the government has not exactly greeted this creativity with open arms.
Instead, “the architecture of copyright law and digital technologies as they interact, have produced the presumption that these activities are illegal” (Lessig, 2008). “Without permission you are a trespasser” (Lessig, 2008).
As a result, there is a growing extremism coming from both sides of the creator and government v. user debate.
One side is building new technologies such as a semi-recent one enabling them to automatically take down content from sites like You Tube that contains any copyrighted content in it whether or not there is a judgment of fair use that might be applied to the use of that content.
On the other side, children and others are becoming copyright abolitionists, rejecting the “notion of what copyright is supposed to do” and believing “the law is nothing more than an ass to be ignored and to be fought at every opportunity possible” (Lessig, 2008).
Lessig said he believes both sides of the debate are wrong.
“I believe so not because I think copyright is unimportant…I believe in peace because the costs of war wildly exceed any benefit, at least when you consider changes to the current regime of copyright that could end this war while promising artists and authors the protection that any copyright system is intended to provide” (Lessig, 2008).
Drawing upon lessons learned from John Philip Sousa, who warned in the 19th Century that America was changing from a “read-write culture” to a “read-only culture,” and BMI, which offered better access to user-generated content and music, Lessig offers up a two-prong private solution to the debate (Lessig, 2008).
1. Artists and creators embrace the idea that their work be made available more freely for non-commercial and amateur use.
2. Businesses building out this read/write culture to embrace these changes so freer content can become
available, benefitting all parties involved.
He believes this will create a system that provides artists and authors with the “incentives to create” without “criminalizing our kids” (Lessig, 2008).
In most instances, I agree creators should be compensated for commercial usage of their content.
The news media, however, should be one of the exemptions from this rule.
Now, I’ll admit that I do get very annoyed when I look for a song on You Tube and all I get are fan versions instead of the real thing.
However, I don’t think people should be stopped from uploading these remixed creations.
I just think You Tube should do a better job in filtering the originals from the copies.
In case you’re wondering what the latest fair use laws entail, here’s a link.
A true artist produces content to exercise their freedom of speech, invoke emotion and thought and express themselves.
Having the opportunity to make a living from that should be considered an added blessing.
Some artists these days are too greedy for money and forget where they started.
Before they were famous, many singers created mix tapes, on which they rapped or sang on top of a beat.
Sometimes these beats came from existing songs.
They didn’t get permission from those artists when they were performing these songs trying to get a record deal.
People these days are doing the same thing, only they are recording themselves performing these songs and placing them on You Tube.
I offer up two semi-recent situations for discussion:
CASE STUDY 1:
Beyonce’s song “Single Ladies” grew to phenomenal popularity thanks in part to You Tube.
Fans could record themselves performing the fun choreography from the song’s official video and share their attempts with friends on You Tube, blogs and other websites.
Having this freedom to share their experiences with the song and dance routine, undoubtedly created a sense of community among posters and viewers, led to a lot of smiles and good feelings and maybe even inspired
watchers and performers to become professional dancers themselves.
Do I think Beyoncé should get a cut from each of these homegrown performances?
What are your thoughts on this matter?
Should Beyoncé get a cut from the performances?
CASE STUDY 2:
Now, here’s the story referenced in this blogs title.
In 2010, soul singer Kelly Price filed a lawsuit against The New Light Center Christian Church.
Price accused the Houston-area church of allegedly “making money from her song ‘Women Who Win,’ without proper licensing and permission” (AT2W, 2010).
Specifically, Price claims the defendant did the following (AT2W, 2010):
1) “Recorded a telecast of New Light Church called “Women Who Win.”
2) “Promoted DVDs and other products from their website called “Women Who Win.”
3) “Recorded and performed at several 2008 Women Who Win conferences.”
4) Created audio CDs “incorporating the song still remain on sale.”
5) Performed the song during regular church services.
You can read more on this story at the following link: Read more about Will Bishop I.V. Hilliard & Church Pay Kelly Price for Copyright Infringement?
Should a church have to pay to sing a song during Sunday morning worship service?
Was New Light wrong in basing a sermon series off of a song title?
Should Kelly be financially compensated for the church using “Women Who Win” in any capacity?
If the Church was not making money off the slogan, would it be OK for them to use it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these case studies or anything else you feel like discussing from the blog.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Lessig, Lawrence. (2008). Remix: Making art and culture thrive in a hybrid economy. New York: Penguin Press.
A Toast 2 Wealth (2010, November 8). Will Bishop I.V. Hilliard & Church Pay Kelly Price for Copyright Infringment? | AT2W. Retrieved from http://www.atoast2wealth.com/2010/11/08/will-bishop-i-v-hilliard-church-pay-kelly-price-for-copyright-infringment/
Renfro, A.(2012, December 5). Meet Generation Z - Getting Smart by Adam Renfro -
commerce, gadgets, Gen Z, generation z, professionals, social media, web tools
| Getting Smart. Retrieved from