Anyone who has ever looked for something on YouTube has inevitably ran into a video without audio because there’s a song playing in the car while the person is filming, or it’s a video of a child dancing to some song, and these videos were flagged for copyright violation. While these things are frustrating, copyright becomes a real problem when it comes down to amateur artists being sued.
Lawrence Lessig writes about something called Read Only culture and Read/Write culture in his book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Lessig tells us, something most of us already know: the strict rules of copyright laws are both annoying and a big hindrance to amateur artists’ creativity.
Picture this: A fledgling filmmaker with no budget finds the perfect song to use in their film, they put it into their film, they upload the film on YouTube – no monetary gains, just personal accomplishment – so that they can eagerly watch every time the views number jumps up… and then the film gets flagged for copyrighted content and they’re ordered to remove it. A film studio wants to use the same song in a blockbuster movie to make tons of profits, so they can afford what to the average person would be an exorbitant licensing fee to use the song in their movie, but this first-time-filmmaker suffers because using a song, even not for any gain, is illegal because of our copyright laws.
One of the things Lessig advocated for in his book was to reform the copyright laws in the US to allow a separate measure of access for amateur creative use without being held to the same expectations as those who can afford to buy the full rights to things. This goes for people making fan videos of their favorite TV shows, or young artists sampling beats from a song for their new song, to the filmmaker who wants to use a piece of music in their film.
I am sure most would agree that the future for creativity in the digital age will have to involve some type of this kind of reform simply to ensure creativity manages to flourish.