In my latest Guardian column, "When love is harder to show than hate," I look at the fact that copyright protects critics who want to talk trash about creative works, but gives no real protection to people who want to say nice things about them.
The damage here is twofold: first, this privileges creativity that knocks things down over things that build things up. The privilege is real: in the 21st century, we all rely on many intermediaries for the publication of our works, whether it's YouTube, a university web server, or a traditional publisher or film company. When faced with legal threats arising from our work, these entities know that they've got a much stronger case if the work in question is critical than if it is celebratory. In the digital era, our creations have a much better chance of surviving the internet's normal background radiation of legal threats if you leave the adulation out and focus on the criticism. This is a selective force in the internet's media ecology: if you want to start a company that lets users remix TV shows, you'll find it easier to raise capital if the focus is on taking the piss rather than glorifying the programmes.
Second, this perverse system acts as a censor of genuine upwellings of creativity that are worthy in their own right, merely because they are inspired by another work. It's in the nature of beloved works that they become ingrained in our thinking, become part of our creative shorthand, and become part of our visual vocabulary. It's no surprise, then, that audiences are moved to animate the characters that have taken up residence in their heads after reading our books and seeing our movies. The celebrated American science-fiction writer Steven Brust produced a fantastic, full-length novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, inspired by the television show Firefly. Brust didn't - and probably can't - receive any money for this work, but he wrote it anyway, because, he says, "I couldn't help myself".
BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music. has been trying to enlist Cox Cable as an accomplice in a copyright trolling scheme, demanding that the company pass on copyright infringement notices that accuse users of downloading music and order them to pay large sums of music or face punishing lawsuits.
In 2014, Britain strode boldly into the late 20th century, finally legalising “private copying” — ripping CDs, taping LPs, recording TV shows, backing up your ebooks and games — but now it’s thought better of the move.
After years of missteps, blunders and disasters in which Youtube users have been censored through spurious copyright claims or had their accounts deleted altogether, Google has announced an amazing, user-friendly new initiative though which it will fund the legal defense of Youtube creators who are censored by bad-faith copyright infringement claims.
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