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Thank you music industry!

Posted by brunos on January 13, 2009 at 8:55 AM PST

We are always trying to shine some light to our kids, and teach them about right and wrong. A few things are pretty hard to explain. Copyright for one is a pretty complicated thing.

My daughter has frequently asked me about movies and music. Her friends tell her that they can download any music or movie from the Internet, and she asks me if this is true, and if I'll teach her to do it. Or our neighbor's kid keeps asking her why can't she run on the PlayStation the copied games that he has. And I try to explain to her that we really are not interested in pirated videos and our PlayStation is not "cracked", so it does not run the pirated games. I try to tell her about this thing called Copyright...

For her, this simple does not make a lot of sense...

But, yesterday, she asked me why she can't access her video on YouTube, and I found out that she hasn't been able to access it for some time now. So I went to take a look. And her video was removed because of "copyright claims made by a third party"... Now, go explain that to a 10 year-old kid...

The thing is: some time ago, when she was 8, she wanted to learn how to do a video, so, she made a little video with two string puppets. Recorded with an old digital picture camera, that had enough memory to record about 30s of video at a time. She basically did it all, I was mostly the puppeteer and supporter. Including choosing the song from one of our (paid for) CDs. "Águas de Março", from Tom Jobim, one of the best songs of all time. At the time, I didn't have the insight to try to explain to an 8 year-old details of the Copyright laws... The video was a tribute to the song, didn't use the full song, was a learning tool for an 8 years old girl trying to be creative. It was watched on YouTube a little over 7,000 times in 2 years, a drop on the ocean by any possible count.

Yesterday, she really learned about copyrigh... She learned that this "third party" person asked YouTube to removed her video. Because of a song that she paid to have. She also learned that the fact that she was never allowed to download the free music and videos over the internet didn't help her at all.

She is pretty upset. She feels cheated. Her first question was why "third party" is after her? She is a kid, and wants revenge. She says she doesn't want to pay for music or video anymore. I'm telling her about Creative Commons.

Thank you Music Industry. You have -- once again -- turned a customer into an enemy. Good job. Keep doing this, it works wonders to explain difficult concepts to little kids. It is at least helping me shining light through all the Copyright darkness...

light into darkness

This post is cross-posted to OSI's web site.

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Thank you music industry!

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Thank you music industry!

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Thank you music industry!

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In the previous post I meant to say "comparing music download to a theft _or_ a crime". More and more we see those comparisons, that try to equate music download to stealing of a purse or a car. Those are different things. But I'll not go into this here, I don't believe (and as you saw on my post, don't teach my kids) on non-licensed music download. But we need to be aware of those things. If someone makes an invalid comparison, trying to trick you into agreeing with them, you need to look into the real reason for the trickery. An interesting read on making invalid claims, that also discuss how musicians make money: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2005/02/the_false_mathe.html

Welcome back, Bruno! Glad you're blogging and interesting issue raised.. :)

Hello jwenting, Thanks for your comments. We need to be careful not to fall in the trap that the music industry and other industries of copyright try to create, like comparing music download to a theft of a crime, in order to "educate". This is not education, it is trickery. First, my daughter paid for the song she used, and she was not selling it, she was not even putting it for download, she used it in her own creation. So, this is not "piracy", but it is copyright infringement. You call this "immoral" and "criminal", and it is not. What she did is not criminal in any way. Copyright infringement is a civil law issue: * Criminal laws are malum per se, meaning that it is against the moral principles of society. * Civil laws are malum prohibitum, meaning that they are against the law because someone has said so. These are things like speeding and parking violations. So, by its very definition, it is not either immoral _nor_ criminal. It is a contract dispute. And (see my previous comment) could very much be argued as copyright fair use, what would even make it complaint with the copyright law. And although this discussion may sound like I'm promoting copyright infringement, I'm not. I'm using this to teach my daughter about it, and show her that there are other ways of doing things. Like creative commons, that so many artist publish their songs, their videos, their art with licenses that allow you to be creative on top of. And allow them to make money, without having to resort to taking little kids videos down. On the contrary, they would probably even promote any video that used their song to say "it is the best song in the world". The problem with copyright law is that it promotes the distributor, and not the artist. That's why I'm not worried about Tom Jobim's opinion on this, I'm pretty sure he would have though the video was funny, if childish. But, he doesn't benefit from the copyright anymore, it is owned by some large music corporation, that still thinks the best way to make money is to restrict the usage of their property. I don't think that is the best way. That's why I want my daughter to understand that yes, she can download and play and use creative commons music. Yes, she can read and distribute Project Gutenberg free e-texts. Yes she can use, contribute, be creative and redistribute open source software. That there is a better alternative. And this is why I wrote this post: because just explaining this to her is one thing. But the music industry did help me show to her how things work. I'm not arguing they are wrong, just that there is a better why for my kids to see the world. And I'm genuinely thanking them for helping me out! Thank you for the great comments! Bruno.

Hello Daniel, Of course the music industry didn't sue me or my daughter, they did sue YouTube! (just google for YouTube sue copyright to see a few). Why do they need to go after me, if they can go after the big fish? Why suing YouTube makes it more friendly? Considering the book analogy, what if she had done a cartoon or a blog post, saying good things about your book, and quoting parts of it? And mentioning that it was one of the greatest books of all time? Would you be so upset? That's what she did: used part of a song, mentioned the authors, and even said that it was chosen as one of the best songs of all time. In any case, no we didn't own the music, and this is not in dispute here. But if you read copyright law, and you go see "fair use" under the law, you'll see that it is a pretty complicated thing. On the FAQ about Copyright Law by Terry Carroll on the topic of "fair use" she concludes by saying: "If all this sounds like hopeless confusion, you're not too far off. Often, whether a use is a fair use is a very subjective conclusion. " (subjective in this case means only solved in court!) Fair use is the right that you have to use a copyrighted work, like for example, quoting your book. Of course, it has too many nuances. And, it is acceptable if used for non-commercial purpose, specially educational, if it is just a portion of the work, and the effect that it had on the market or on the value of the work. The case here is obviously for non-commercial usage, and it had a negligible impact on the market or value of the original song. Now, you can argue that she used much more of the song than she could have, but I'm not an expert on music copyright to even know how much of a song it is possible to use. Things get more and more complex as you go down the layers... Thanks! Bruno.

Very good discussions, thank you all. I'll start from the latest to the first! koalaboy, she would actually be very happy if her video was used by someone else, and actually, I asked her if she wanted that or not. Her video was released as creative commons. And she did specifically mention that the music was copyrighted by the authors, and named them. She also mentioned that the video was a tribute to the song. But the issue here is not if she had the right or not. Of course she didn't have the rights to the song, I'm not disputing this in any way (otherwise, I would be probably trying to get her rights respected!). But I'm raising the issue that copyright is a complicated thing, and that even a kid can get burned by it. And, the more people that gets burned by those laws, the more we need to discuss it. Like we're doing here :-) I don't agree with the copyright laws they way they are, and I think that it makes even worst when people present to kids comparisons of download of a music with stealing of a car or purse. They are not the same thing. And this is a valid discussion to make, it is not because it is a law, that it perfect, and that we should not work to fix it. Read John's first comment about this. About evolution of the law, the original copyright laws offered an exclusivity rights to the author for a period of 28 years since the work was created. It is a bargain with the society: society will give you some limited monopoly to promote you into creating more work, and then all the society can benefit from your work later. In this specific case, the song Aguas de Marco (from 1974), would be copyright free already, if the (Music and others) industry had not proposed increasingly large copyright terms. Expanding copyright indefinitely robs society from its rights, what is another reason why we -- the society -- should be discussing those laws. One last comment, copyright as we know it is a very recent thing (the last 300 years), and I think we can agree that we had "art" for much longer then that. The number of artist that really earn real money from their craft is pretty small, and I don't think copyright law has helped this at all... Tks, Bruno.

Why not ask her how she'd feel if somebody else took her video, and made up some voices for the puppets, and then put it on their own website - but didn't mention here - they said it was their video, and everyone though it was really great, and nobody came to her video any more. I guess she'd be upset. Does she know it's wrong to take things that belong to Mum & Dad and just share them with her friends ? Copyright isn't about just music, and it's no harder to explain that Creative Commons. It's about belongings and ownership. This very blog isn't 'free', and I can't just do with it whatever I choose. The record companies may be big evil institutions, but they're not copyright. Teach your children about the painter, the writer, the musician, and how they should be the people to choose what happens to *their* music. If copyright is abolished, art will be lost. How about encouraging her to make her own music for the video - teach her to write some words, and sing a song. Teach her to play the piano, or the guitar, and use her own creative results. It's far better for the world to encourage unique creativity, than to have even more of society growing up to believe everything should be free. If everything was free, nobody could afford to create.

Hi Bruno, I don't think you or the music industry did anything wrong -- at least until you posted this blog entry. It would have been different, IMO, if the music company had come after you and sued you for using their music without permission. In that case my sympathies would be entirely with you. They didn't. They saw their music being used without permission and had the offending piece taken down. Did you own the music? Well you bought a copy for listening. I imagine if you bought a book I'd written I would be happy if you read it --- I wouldn't be so happy if you posted the entire book online in your blog for others to read without paying. My first action would be the same as the music company. I would want it taken down. I wouldn't want to sue you. I have trouble with this because I like and respect you very much and know that your intent was good. But even in the open source world there are restrictions on how someone may reuse and alter a product. When I choose to use Net Beans or Solaris or Open Office or Java 7 I need to understand and respect the conditions of use. Best, Daniel

Interesting problem, and one that can't be solved. Either you take action against all infringement or you loose the legal right to take action against any.

That the infringing party is a 10 year old girl hardly matters, because as you quite clearly know many such kids are hardcore pirates and in posession of large amounts of stolen material, often not even considering what they're doing theft because noone ever told them it was.

Education is needed here, not blaming the industry for protecting its property. I wonder how you'd feel if you found something you worked hard to create was stolen by someone else (and probably copied and sold by that person, which happens a lot with pirated content in some countries).

If parents don't tell kids not only that piracy is wrong but WHY it is wrong, it's never going to stop. Tell your daughter that piracy is theft, and that the children of her favourite singers won't be able to eat or get nice new clothes. While a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to a single instance, it can be the ultimate effect (I know people who lost their well paying jobs because their employers couldn't survive in a world where they sold hardly anything because prospective customers used pirated software instead).

Unless and until the general population starts treating piracy as immoral and criminal (it is both), it's not going to go away. And as long as it doesn't go away (or at least gets reduced to the low background level it was at until less than a decade ago) the efforts of the industry to stamp down on pirates aren't going to go away either. Your kid needs to learn that what she did was wrong, even if she didn't know it at the time (your fault, actually), and why it is wrong. Instead you teach her the opposite, that the people she stole from are the bad guys.

Yes Felipe, this is another issue... The internet brings a new challenge, it expands the reach of your private life. When you post a picture, or join an online community, this may affect even your future life. In the past, if you had an embarrassing picture, your cousins would give you a hard time. In the future, your employee will see that picture before hiring you... Kids today need to learn how to cope with it. And thanks afishionado, I knew of Jamendo but will check out both sites! I'm sure we'll be able to find a good Creative Commons song to do another video. That's the next lesson :-)

I pretty much don't watch movies or listen to music anymore because I am just that annoyed by this BS. (Asserting your copyright I can tolerate, pushing DRM is another thing.) That said, let me plug http://www.jamendo.com/ and http://magnatune.com/ . Jamendo is a site for sharing Creative Commons-licensed music. Magnatune is a recording label that dual-licenses all of their collection under a CC non-commercial share-and-share alike license (non-CC and commercial projects can pay for licenses). Things are improving. Slowly.

Thank you John, I totally agree. We have an option to think through the problems now, and work to solve it, and rethink copyright law. It is a tough problem, that affects people wolrdwide. We can also wait our kids to grow up, and hope that when they learn that they are all "criminals" they will do something about it! Bruno.

Hi Bruno, Interesting problem. I went through the same thing with my kids. I likened it to the ill-thought constitutional amendment establishing prohibition in the United States. If a law turns ordinary people (and in this case children) into criminals, it is the law that must change... not the people. John

Hi Bruno, my son is 15 now.. and I assume the education efforts got stressed during the teenager times, where "pervasive computing" proved to be the worse thing the humanity invented ever :) eheh Today, I keep trying to explain my son every day about the risks for his own healthy and future carrier if he spend all day with his mind inside computers, video-games and social networks. and believe me: it is the most hard (tiring I would say) control ever.. simply because he find access to the Internet everywhere, everyday :) you establish a schedule and regulations for the digital devices and then there is the psp and there is the mobile connected to the web and then you start to thing about the neighborhood psp and mobiles and the McDonalds free web and etc, etc, etc.. it is just a lost war, you fight everyday to give a better education to the people you love more in this life... and the industry around you is working 25 hours a day to give to your kids a new connection, a new pirate contents, etc..