Copyright on the Web

A few days ago I was surfing the net when I stumbled across an astoundingly clever video. I had just finished reading about the whole stolen Cutline theme for Wordpress debacle, so I had copyright and intellectual property on my mind. This is an issue I’ve often thought about as I take my first baby steps of blogging. At times, I’ve come up with what I would consider mildly clever (and that’s stretching it) ideas, but wasn’t sure how ‘borrowed’ content works on the internet. I wasn’t really worried about getting sued (people have to notice your work for that to happen and/or you have to make money off said ideas), but I was more concerned with the ethics of it. My interest thus far has largely in photography, and I found Wikimedia Commons to be a decent if not extensive source of public domain photographs. In any event, the video I had happened across was hilarity and genius at the same time, but it sported a soundtrack not made by the blog creator (although full credit was given to the musician).

My father is an editor, but first he was a writer, and he ended up having a large part of one project essentially “ripped off” because he was too young and trusting to properly protect himself. So maybe that’s where my interest comes from, or maybe, just maybe my girlfriend is right and I am a paranoid freak. Besides all of that, however, I thought it an interesting dilemma – how to properly attribute work and how copyright works on the World Wide Web. My theory concerning creative material on the internet is that a lot of it is free (whether it be a Wordpress theme, Apache, a YouTube video, etc.) thanks not only the altruism of the creators, but also because it’s so darn easy to steal that keeping track of it would be pretty darn tough.

As luck would have it, a day or two after seeing the video, I awoke to a radio news story discussing this very issue. A segment on NPR dealt with the issue of ‘Fair Use’ in copyright law and discussed how individuals were free to alter copyrighted materials for their own creations. And it’s not just liberals saying that -- there are fancy Stanford lawyers who agree as well!

You can take a listen to the segment here.

The Stanford Fair Use Project can be found here.

Oh, and if it seems like I haven't been adding to this blog, well it's because all my pages seemingly end up supplemental these days. I expect I'll be adding more in the coming days regardless though.