I saw on BoingBoing
this week that a pianist had his performance of a Bach piece taken down from YouTube after Sony Music Global claimed ownership over the music.
Bach’s music is very much public domain, and anyone can play it themselves without paying royalties to anyone. But Sony certainly owns the rights to particular recordings of Bach’s music. And that’s where YouTube’s ContentID system messed up.
But, as BoingBoing points out – this is a taste of things to come if EU proposals come to fruition. The European Parliament will next week vote on legislation that would force online platforms to automatically take down any form of copyright violation immediately.
If the tech messes up, you can appeal to have your content reinstated. Memes that draw on popular culture are allowed but would likely be automatically taken down and put back up on appeal, which is hilarious for anyone who understands how memes work.
Set aside the technological and administrative hellhole this would usher in for sharers and tech companies alike – it’s an uncomfortable reminder that big media company lobbying is slowly destroying the public domain.
Disney is notorious for pushing for extensions to copyright on its oldest works. By rights, Steamboat Willy should be free for people to use and remix as they please these days. Mickey Mouse should be a folk hero rather than a corporate mascot.
Culture belongs to all of us, not just corporations. Creators need protection, but there need to be limits. Imagine if Bach had copyrights on his music that kept getting extended over the centuries since his death. His music wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular today as it is, given that anyone from school kids to classical music stars can play it without fear.
And this new EU legislation – through automated mistakes and encouraging a culture of creative suppression – would help reduce the freedom of public domain works even further. It would help foster the idea that copyright is everything, and culture isn’t ultimately a shared experience.