The use of copyrighted material without permission (aka piracy) gets a lot of attention in the music industry, but those of us who earn income from visual arts are just as often (if not more so) screwed over by rampant online piracy.
Interestingly, Taylor Swift and other huge creative content producers suffer from many of the exact same issues as independent photographers, filmmakers and visual artists (on an entirely different scale of course).
Now, with the current review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) ongoing in the US – artists like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Paul McCartney and some of the world’s other top creative content procurers think that it’s time to hold tech companies responsible for rampant piracy.
Amen – digital copyright control is long past due – click to continue reading…
According to a the recent article Why Taylor Swift Is Asking Congress To Update Copyright Laws by Laura Sydell on NPR:
The artists say that aspects of the law that were written in the late 1990s make it too easy for tech companies to ignore rampant piracy on their sites and put too much responsibility on the artists themselves to find the illegal music files.
I have said for a long time that tech companies – and in particular social media platforms – purposefully make it ridiculously easy to collect and re-distribute copyrighted material (click here to find out why Social Media Networks Don’t Give A Flying Fudge Nugget About Copyright), so its interesting that the music industry has identified the same thing.
If that’s what Apple Music’s Chief Creative Officer thinks about YouTube – its exactly the same way I feel about social media networks (Instagram and Facebook in particular) where it is an underlying premise that visual creative content will be appropriated and distributed without permission or compensation to copyright holders.
The core issue is that under the DMCA, tech companies are not responsible for restricting access to unauthorized content unless the copyright owner finds out about it on their own and files a complaint.
Obviously this is a ridiculous expectation when you consider how quickly a single image can be re-distributed, and is made even more impossible when you consider infractions originating from countries that have little respect for copyright law.
We have recently seen tech companies like YouTube and Facebook taking some control over the illegal sharing of audio and video on their platforms (but only after prolonged pressure from big budget legal challenges) – but for small producers and visual artists – there is practically nothing you can do
if when your work is lifted and shared without your permission.
Further, the copyright controls that have been added to identify and restrict audio and video copyright infractions have not been extended to still photography and graphics, and the onus is still on the content producer not the distributor to pursue action.
“Google could solve this problem — 90 percent of this problem — with one switch…” “And if they were really on the side of the creators they would do something about that.”
This is exactly the type of solution that I discussed in my previous article: Could YouTube Style Matched Content Be The Solution For Licensing Journalism and Photography
A technical solution to copyright infringement would not be difficult to implement if there were the will to do it (proposals like blockchain copyright registration are a step in the right direction – but not a total solution). However, tech companies have massively deep pockets and a huge incentive to maintain the status quo, so it’s hard to believe that they would willingly try to restrict unauthorized sharing without legislation forcing them to.
In the mean time, the best that we can do as creative content producers is to be as aggressive as possible in pursuing financial compensation for copyright infringement (here are a few tips to help you protect your photography copyright and pursue compensation).
What Do You Think?
Should tech companies be held responsible for their role in enabling digital piracy?
What do you think should be done to protect the copyright of content producers?
Do you think that copyright is unenforceable and no longer applies to the digital age?
Leave a comment below and let us know!
As an illustration of how convoluted copyright infringement is online – even when you’re trying do the right thing: I used two Creative Commons licensed images to illustrate this article. I know that these particular images are licensed to be redistributed for commercial use with attribution. However, I have no way of knowing for sure if the creator listed by Wikimedia Commons is the original photographer, or if the photographer had the credentials to capture these images in the first place – so I could very well be inadvertently infringing on Taylor Swift’s copyright right now – but I have no way of knowing unless one of her representatives files a DMCA complaint.