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YouTube and Copyright

Interesting week with YouTube’s five-year anniversary, and the story that the owners of the copyright of the German movie ‘Downfall’ (Constantin Films) have told the birthday company to take the huge variety of Downfall parodies down off their site. I have to confess I liked the movie and the parodies (as did some of the people involved in the movie). It brings up yet again the issue of such sites and ownership of content.

An interesting book on the subject of copyright and ownership is Lawrence Lessig’s ‘Remix’. The book highlights the history and recent use of copyright laws from music mash-ups to the case of Wikipedia to the copyright ‘wars’ of the last ten years with organisations such as Grokster and Napster. He argues that copyright laws have ceased to perform their original, beneficial role: protecting artists’ creations while allowing them to build on previous creative works. In fact, our system now criminalises those very actions.

Lessig makes an interesting case contrary to what you hear from the music, film and other creative industries. The issue has already been parodied by Southpark, and after the bittorrent tracker Pirate Bays more recent scrapes with the law (and politics) this is as relevant an issue as ever.

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