In chapter 12 of The Social Media Reader entitled ‘Your Intermediary is your Destiny’ Fred von Lohmann speaks of a clearance culture, ‘the expectation that express permission will have been obtained for every copyrighted work that appears in a video.’ Throughout the online and offline media worlds are compared amongst their obligations to uphold copyrights, specifically towards video content. While offline intermediaries are viewed as doormen, having to be satisfied with the work before its broadcasted, online intermediaries are comparable to bouncers, involving themselves after a complaint rather than being consulted before hand. In reading the points highlighted in the chapter it seemed that both online and offline intermediaries are on opposite sides of the same spectrum. While one nitpicks each detail, the other barely does anything until rights have been breached.
The best result would be to find a balance between the two extremes, finding a way to pay attention to infringement while not being over baring and punishing the guilty and non guilty parties. While I do believe that copyrights are necessary in order for deserving ones to benefit from their labor, I strongly believe that online intermediaries serve a tremendous purpose, allowing us to see the full scope of things that aren’t shown offline.
The strict boundaries emplaced by copyrights, holding intermediaries legally responsible even if they were unaware that were rights were infringed upon, sets the tone for online intermediaries and its users to rebel and post things they shouldn’t. At the same time, the leniency of Congress in their Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, enacting a copyright safe harbor that allows online intermediaries to ‘store and transmit video on behalf of their users without suffering the kind of strict liability that offline video distributors face, sets the stand for copyright laws to be so strict to compensate.
While I wouldn’t argue that modern video is more or less influenced by preexisting copyrighted work, I do believe that taking an idea with the primary intent of making it your own does change the work. Numerous cases in music deal with copyright infringements such as Vanilla Ice’s popular song ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and the recent success of Robin Thicke’s song ‘Blurred Lines’ are just two of the many cases filed against musicians under copyright infringement. I think the line between copyright infringement and inspiration has yet to be defined in detail.