After much debate this week on the topics of copyrights and remixing, it is clear that this is an issue deep with controversy and a complicated one to rectify.
In Jennifer’s initial post, she asks the question “how are sites, governments, media companies supposed to enforce copyright laws to protect themselves, when mostly everything today that has been created has been a collaboration of ideas presented before them?”
In David’s post and subsequent comments, he refers to Kirby Ferguson’s discussion of creativity being based on 3 basic elements – copy, transform and combine, as well as the concepts of influence and constructivism. He also poses the question, if these concepts alter the situation to make copyright laws difficult to enforce, thereby negating the laws themselves?
Despite the perceived difficulty in enforcement, I think that copyright laws absolutely can be enforced, even in the face of modern information technology. Essentially, there are three scenarios that allow for the copyrighted content to be reused:
1) Copyright owner allows reuse explicitly by employing a Creative Commons license or something similar
2) The copyright expires and the work enters the public domain (although this can take a while)
3) The re-use is covered under the “fair use” exception to copyright
Although it can be difficult to establish whether a particular instance of reuse is covered by the “fair use” exception, this challenge is hardly new – questions about the bounds of fair use have existed long before modern information technology.
Nevertheless, the Internet has created an environment where a new set of questions arise around copyright enforcement. Say you search for something on Bing, and are directed to a link on YouTube, and the content viewed there is questionable. Is YouTube responsible for making sure all of their hosted content is legal? And what role does Bing play in all this? Are they to be held responsible under secondary liability laws? Are they responsible for making sure they only promote and link to legal content?