The author of ForestBlog, a blogging tool, has discovered that the MPAA was using his code in violation of his license. He gives the code away for free, but requires that users link back to his site and keep his name on the software. The MPAA deleted all credits and copyright notices from his work, and used it without permission. They ripped him off:
Way back in October last year whilst going through the website referals list for another of my sites I stumbled across this link. That's right, my blogging software is being used by the MPAA (Motion picture Association of America); probably one of the most hated organisations known to the internet. Cool, I thought, until I had a look around and saw that all of the back links to my main site had been removed with nary a mention in the source code!
Now, as Patrick Robin (the software author) notes, this probably wasn't the outcome of a high-level board meeting wherein the executive committee decided to rip him off. It was more likely the work of a lazy Web person at the MPAA who was cutting corners at work.
But the MPAA believes that employers should be held responsible for employees' copyright infringements. They want you to know that if you download movies at work, your employer will also be named in the suit. Infringe as we say, not as we do.
This reminds me of Warner Music chief Edgar Bronfman, Jr's admission that his kids downloaded infringing music. He shrugged it off, saying that he'd dealt with the matter privately. Other parents are not so lucky: when their kids get caught downloading music, the RIAA sues them for every penny, through a thuggish boiler-room operation.
Copyright law is hard. It used to only govern relations between giant industrial players. Copyright didn't regulate reading an interesting tidbit from the newspaper for a friend. It didn't regulate watching movies. But now, sharing a newspaper article with a friend (by blogging it) involves copying, and so triggers copyright. Now watching a movie (by downloading it) involves copying, so it triggers copyright. The rules that are supposed to be interpreted by lawyers at Fortune 100 companies now apply to every single kid working on a project for her class's website.
This is like having to file with the SEC every time you loan a buddy $5 for lunch.
Even the MPAA and its member companies can't avoid violating copyright. The MPAA's own CEO personally
ripped off Kirby Dick, pirating his film "This Film is Not Yet Rated" using the MPAA's duplicating facilities. The studios regularly hose writers, painters, composers and performers, nicking their creative labor without compensation, and sneeringly invite them to sue if they don't like it. Even the web-development departments get in on the act.
Is it any wonder that everyone with a computer is practically guaranteed to be a copyright criminal?