Thoughts on Copyright Lawsuits out of Control and the Definition of Personal Use

I happened upon a little news story today that struck a chord with me and has since spawned a little bit of a rant. You see, the story was about how this woman posted a video of her kid walking to a certain video sharing website... a video that just happened to have a song by a certain artist playing in the background. There were letters sent to have the video taken down due to copyright infringement or something etc etc.

Perhaps you heard this bit of news? I won't go into the details anymore than I already have... ok maybe I'll say that the artist in question is one who was at one time called the artist formally known as something something... you get the idea. The details aren't really important, it's the mere fact that this lawsuit exists, and that the woman who is fighting these lawsuits and standing up for her rights to "personal use".

So what is personal use?

I always thought it was using a piece of music, a specific recording that I owned a copy of on album, for things which were not done for commercial purposes. The prime example I always use is one of making a mix tape from various cds etc. I am within the copyright allowances to make such a tape as long as I then don't sell them to friends for 5 dollars a pop. Although some record labels and places like the RIAA might disagree, I consider "ripping" (converting to mp3) an album from CD to also be within the allowances of the copyrights as long as those digital tracks are just so I can use them on my mp3 player etc.

So what about using a song as part of a personal movie that I then post on the Internet for my family to easily view? It's not commercial use, it's not making any money of any kind... but it's on the Internet, openly available for all to see and view.

Now I'm not going to claim that there isn't some validity to a record label making this claim, as I'm sure there is some legality that is either not adequately expressed, or is expressed in the wrong words... some legal loop hole, or situation where the law is being interpreted literally... where they have a case. I'll even say that there might be situations where those literal interpretations, loop holes and wordings might even protect some artists from having their material stolen BUT... A woman getting a letter to take down the video of her kid because it has copyrighted music playing in the background? That just seems ridiculous... AND makes the artists and the record labels seem like complete "insert your favorite expletive here".

I for one am glad that this case is not going by without someone standing up and saying... "Are you all that desperate?!" Just like when they sued the elderly, 12 year olds and the dead, this lawsuit just feels like some legal department is working overtime looking for ways they can drive this copyright law home... right into a world where you can't even make a mix tape or an mp3 playlist of your favorite songs.

Alright, just some thoughts... something to think about... maybe a little ranting... but that's how I feel about it. If this is the kind of place we're STILL going with copyright laws and music, I think the industry has even more problems than we know.

- The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is a division of Fifth Column Media - www.fifthcolumnmedia.com -