Our daughter looks just like my husband. She’s got his deep blue eyes, golden brown hair, and round little pie face. Nicknamed his little Doppeldaughter, it’s clear that she is a living, breathing replica of her dad’s DNA.
And behind those denim blue eyes, I know there’s some of my own genetic material in there, too. She’s a copy of both of us…a physical expression of our combined DNA. And now she’s out in the world, racking up hundreds of “likes” on social media. Not to mention the monetary compensation she gains as well, in the form of food, diapers, clothing and free housing.
That sounds like a pretty obvious case of copyright infringement to me. We made her, and now she’s using our genetic composition without a license to do so. The question is, can we sue my daughter for biologically, and more importantly, financially, benefitting from our labor?
No. Because that would be ridiculous.
You know what else is ridiculous?
Getting a message from Youtube informing me that my cheesy home-made video of our wedding is being blocked because it contained the songs Imagine, by John Lennon and Thank You, by Led Zeppelin.
I was shocked because the idea that I was “stealing” had never even occurred to me. I wasn’t trying to profit from it. I only uploaded it to Youtube so I could easily share it with my friends and family, many of whom live far away.
The Youtube team wasn’t subtle about their position, either. I got an angry red-paged dialogue box about the crime I was committing, and a stern warning that my video was now blocked in 168 countries for Imagine.
I clicked on the link which showed a short list of countries where my video is still legal. This is the oh-so-exciting list:
Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, China, Colombia, Congo, Congo – Democratic Republic of, Croatia, Dominica, Egypt, Fiji, Georgia, Grenada, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Macao, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Moldova, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
I immediately pictured little African children, all standing around a dirty, cracked laptop, watching my wedding video and swaying along to Imagine, holding hands of course, with all the other little children from the list of “free” countries. Those poor kids would never even have heard of The Beatles if it weren’t for me! I consider that a public service, not an offense.
Thank You, on the other hand, wasn’t blocked in any countries. Instead, it was monetized, meaning that I can use the song, but there will be advertisements on my video so the copyright owners earn revenue for its use. I pictured the guys from Led Zeppelin all watching us get married to their music and being like, “this video is cool. I dig her dress.”
It could happen, right?
I nervously hovered over the link which would provide me more details on the nature of my evil deed. I knew clicking on it was opening a major box of worms. And I was right.
I had unwittingly stumbled upon a huge debate that is raging from online chatrooms to real live courtrooms. What I learned form my initial five minutes of searching is that copyright law is far from a perfect science and it grows increasingly muddled with each new passing piece of legislature, each successful lawsuit, each stupid new app.
As an artist myself, I can see the demand for protecting my product.
As a free-minded member of society, I can see the value and the importance of supporting the zeitgeist, the group thought, the inspiration, expression, and freedom to share ideas, impressions, or even your favorite god-damned song if you want to.
I’m getting emotional. I wonder if my daughter stole that gene from me, too.
It will take some time for me to navigate the legalese.
Right now, I’m reading through The dotCommunist Manifseto, by Eben Moglen, Professor of Law at Colombia University.
In the meantime, tell me your thoughts on the matter, but be careful.
I can’t promise I won’t steal them.