A Cooperative Resolution?

What is the proper way to deal with intellectual property rights? In my opinion we are still in the early days of figuring out how to handle the rights of individuals and corporations with regard to information rights in the digital age. Look no further than the battle between individuals who use file sharing software over the Internet vs. the recording industry.

It is easy for most people to recognize that music is an art worth paying money to enjoy. Therefore, it is pretty simple to see how the recording industry, acting as a whole for the artists would crusade against illegal sharing of music made much easier over broadband Internet connections. Think of it, you pay for a CD once… then copy it to ten friends. You have essentially just taken 90% of the profit due to the artist for those transactions.

However, this issue is not that simple. To convince the RIAA to allow music to be legally downloaded from iTunes, etc., digital rights management code (DRM) was added to all of the songs. At first, I had no problem with this fact. However, recent issues have cropped in the use of my songs to do certain things. Now when a new technology comes along, such as Animoto, I find that I don’t have the rights to add my own music to videos I make on the site. This is very disturbing to me. In my opinion, if I want to hear music that I have legally purchased playing in the background of images of my wedding and honeymoon, I should be able to do just that. Instead, it only allows non-DRM music in the form of .mp3 files to be added.

This is NOT a solution. It is only an inconvenience to ethical folks who play by the rules. All that means is that I can slide any hardcopy CD that I have purchased (or borrowed for that matter) into my laptop drive and copy the file in .mp3 format to be used however I want. This amounts to DRM code being nothing but a crutch added to allow you to conveniently purchase music online. Because of this, I only download from iTunes when I am either in a hurry or want only a song or two from a certain LP.

To test some of these ideas, I created a video of a school planning retreat on Animoto and uploaded it to YouTube. The video can be seen here:

When this was done, I quickly received an e-mail from YouTube stating that my video had been flagged as having copyrighted material. The soundtrack I added for this two minute and four second video was “With My Own Two Hands” by Ben Harper & Jack Johnson from the Curious George soundtrack. For doing so, I was given three very reasonable options:

1. remove the video from YouTube immediately

2. dispute the claim via a link they provide

3. leave the video up and allow UMG, the recording company, to place ads on the page as well as track the public statistics of the video, such as number of views, etc.

To me, this is a very smart, savvy, consumer-friendly way to handle a minor “rights dispute” such as this one. I get to play my video the way I wanted to in the first place, and they get free advertising. This seems like a win/win to me. Therefore, I chose option three… the video still plays online, and everyone is happy. I can only hope that future decisions about information rights are solved in such a cooperative way.