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Ethical Concerns

CopyRight or Not?

When it comes to copyright laws, they make sense and work well. Seventy years after the author’s death, in the case of books, as a general rule of thumb. That gives enough time for the authors and their families’ to get their dues, and then you get awesome or horrible remakes, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. 

What about the idea where there have only been four original stories ever, with the details changed? How much has to be changed for a work to be considered original? How many Romeo and Juliet stories are there? Basically, every romance can be summed up with: “And they fell in love, after these obstacles.” What about tragedy or comedy?

What happens when something is no longer held under copyright, legally speaking, but it is in effect? There are some forms of media, like The Simpsons, that is not used, because it would cost far too much to get permission for something that is technically free?

On a far less serious note, what about with youtube? One of my favorite forms of entertainment is finding reaction shows online. I enjoy getting to see someone fall in love with the same series I did. Sometimes they notice things I missed, understood what happened differently, and put everything into a whole new perspective. 

They have ways for getting around copyright, by distorting the audio or visuals, playing clips that they reacted to the most and cutting out what they didn’t. They use the “Fair Use” claim to get around the copyright. If they are commenting about the video they are watching, offering criticisms or opinions, and usually offering a review afterward, not just putting it up, watching silently, and enabling other people to watch it in its entirety for free. 

Depending on the reviewer, the show in question, and if they want to appeal Youtube, they might be able to keep up their reactions, or have their channel shut down entirely. I’m not entirely sure of the legality of it all, I think it falls into a sort of grey area. They don’t (all) do it for profit, some do it to watch a good show and connect with fans. 

There is also fanfiction, writing of fans of whatever work. It’s not under Copywrite, as its only the names of character/places/universes/etc that are being used, not the source in its entirety. Depending on how it was written, fanfic can go very far from the source material, while keeping with the spirit of the original. Some even go on to be professional authors, like Cassandra Clare. Her series, The Mortal Instruments started out as a Harry Potter fanfic series. And what about the Cursed Child? JKR didn’t write it, she just approved it. Jack Thorne wrote it. I’ve read better. 

What about just reviews? Video gamers get to play games online without falling under the same copyright laws.

People are inspired by what they read, watch and listen to. Some are driven to create their own works. You can only learn by looking at what came before you, take what parts you like, and put them together in new ways to create something completely different. After all, there is no such thing as a new story, just new characters, names and places.

2 replies on “CopyRight or Not?”

The problem is that copyright has been repeatedly extended.
1998 was the Copyright Term Extension Act, which was Life + 70, or 120 years for corporate works. The previous 1976 act was Life +50, or 70 years for corporate works. Before that, it was twenty eight plus twenty eight, and you had to register a work to receive copyright for it.

Beyond that, most of your examples are, under copyright illegal. The thing is that companies have, for the most part (with games for example Nintendo claims everything) decided that it is better to let independent content creators use their copyrights for promotion than to try and silence them.
The issue at hand is really that copyright was never intended for an environment where there are both lots of small content creators who have no means to really defend their rights, and have no means to defend themselves when they end up treading on other people’s rights. One of the long term challenges, for history and everyone else, is figuring out a scheme which will work for the twenty first century, especially under conditions where small content creators are able to churn out content constantly, while larger creators have to adjust around viral and other biological concerns such as Covid.

Monetization is the touchy concept that comes with copyright issues in a virtual environment. A demonetized video is never going to get removed for copyright infringement (typically). Chamberlain mentioned a valid point that, while probably not covered under some kind of fair use, people that are playing video games online are mostly accepted by gaming companies due to the free promotion. This is especially true for games, or other mediums, that receive most of their profits from microtransactions. Take a game like League of Legends for example. Somebody could surely comb through their legal policies and likely find clauses of publishing content to youtube or streaming platforms but the community around streaming has grown their brand massively. Other companies, like Nintendo, can likely say the same.

I agree with Chamberlain. Many of these laws were created in an age before mass information, or “bid data.” Many companies are simply struggling to find a happy medium that works within the context of our own time. It is an incredibly delicate balance. Any time a policy maker mentions the internet, it seems that drama and controversy are sure to follow.

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