Web 2.0 and copyright: When legal rights feel wrong

I was contacted last week by Gareth Stack, who is a thoughtful recent graduate of Trinity College Dublin.
Gareth had contributed to a User Generated Content based competition by Hot New Band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They asked their fans to send in videos of themselves singing along to one of their songs and then cut a selection of them together.

Gareth was one of those who, with his friends, made the cut and has been gracing the screens of MTV with his gyrating in single digit second slices. (See the video below, 3 minutes and four seconds in. No blinking. )

However, he also wanted to show his friends what the full video they’d made looked like. So he put it up on YouTube, synced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song.

Long story short, YouTube got a DMCA notice to take it down.

Legally he hasn’t a leg to stand on, of course. But I think that with a little bit of effort to publicise it, this might become what educationalists term a teachable moment.

What has happened at base is that a band signed to a major label has made a video at low cost with work donated by their fans. But when the fans try to take that work out of the context of a contest controlled by the label, they are smacked down. Gareth received for his trouble some stickers of the band.

Another issue is the use of Terms and Conditions to limit a creator’s rights as the price for easy distribution. Many people treat these video sharing sites as though they were inter-changeable. But there are definitely some which are more creator friendly than others. It is worth pointing that out to people, to encourage them to make an informed decision as to who to upload their work to.

And finally there is the wider lack of respect still being shown by large companies (and the music labels are, of course, the most obvious example of this) to the people they used to think of as just consumers. They are refusing to accept the changed balance of power the internet provides for. I think its safe to say that neither Gareth or his friends will be donating their time and creativity to Universal Music again, no matter which band asks them to. And that means yet another missed opportunity-yet another bridge burnt- to draw fans closer for those bands.

Let’s spread the word on this. I’m writing about this here- I hope you might find space for at least a link to Gareth’s story on his own site Hummingbird Mentality.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, featuring Gareth Stack.

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