Turner Barr

Creating Content: The D.M.C.A.

In the previous post devoted to creating content I focused on the internet as a platform. The internet enables audiences and the content creators to access information of all kinds. This information has origins, or to be more specific owners and right holders that can hold or maintain their claims. In this post prepare for a very detail oriented text. This post is devoted to the D.M.C.A. and how it affects audiences and the content creators.

First some context to explain my perspective. When I started blogging as a serious hobby in 2014 I had read about many cases of copyright, trademark, and related intellectual properties that were infringed by some person or organisation. In the worst case scenarios the one with “the longest breath” survives and wins at the cost of the original creator. Having more financial capital gives access to better lawyers and consultants.

One case that still horrifies me is the “Around-The-World-In-80-Jobs” case. I shall never forget that case. The creator of this blog “Around the World in 80 Jobs” was victim of a corporation taking his work, literally without permission. The blogger Turner Barr had set up his blog to share his adventures with his readers and followers. The corporation in question was Adecco and after attempting a streisand they apologised to Turner Barr. If you want to know why Adecco apologised the reason is simple: global social media backlash as this article reports.

The case of Turner Barr facing Addecco among other cases made me decide a few simple things.

  1. When I blog or create something with serious intentions my name is on it.
  2. When registration is required to protect my name as the creator, it shall be done.
  3. When an organisation, profit or non-profit wants to take my work without permission I fight back.
  4. Everything I create on my blog is for non-profit and sharing.
  5. Links to URLs I mention or use are safe, images and screenshots require extreme caution.
  6. Whenever I can something myself, I do it myself.

Every decision, every post, every save and every full stop that started with a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence is tied to the six points I mention here. Re-reading about Turner Barr’s situation already annoys me. He had the support to survive his situation. Some creators have no support and they lose.

That leads to the D.M.C.A. or spelled out the digital millennium copyright act. The emphasis here is first on the “act” aspect which indicates that it has a legal basis. This legal basis means one thing above all: you can be sued when you use someone else’s creation or work without permission.

Digital refers to the nature of the creation or work, including software programs. Millennium refers to the year of ratification, 1998. The 21st century was around the corner. Copyright is copyright, you create your work and after your death a right holder can claim the (absolute) monopoly it on it for 70 years. In some cases 95 years regarding the 25 years Disney added. The years and conditions may vary depending on the circumstances to make matters worse.

The variables in applying and protecting the copyrights of creators around the world were an uncertain factor in international trade and commerce. So the W.I.P.O. represented its members and initiated the birth of the D.M.C.A. W.I.P.O. means “world intellectual property organisation” and that is as simple as it gets. The details of what the W.I.P.O. does are puzzling to say the least.

Now prepare for the swamp of intellectual property and its offspring. Unless you have a specific or tangible example, intellectual property can be extremely vague. The process of addressing an intellectual property infringement regarding your creation or work requires detailed paperwork and sometimes the process is automated. Automatic processes tend to be prone to misuse and content creator TotalBiscuit faced such a situation. He got out of it but the D.M.C.A.-process at YouTube still favours the right holder to an extent.

Here is the scary part of the D.M.C.A. It becomes worse. The W.I.P.O. represents film studios, publishers, record companies and multi-media enterprises with massive asset and intellectual property portfolios. Think Sony, Hollywood and Decca to begin with. When a content creator infringes on their intellectual property, even by accident he or she might face a claim and court case when things go wrong. File sharing and media sharing websites and platforms are especially vulnerable. Even YouTube had to seriously negotiate about what it could and could not do.

If you think it ends there you are wrong. In this article by the Atlantic a law derived from and seemingly related to the 1998 D.M.C.A. states that unlocking your own smart phone is perceived as a threat for right holders and therefore a crime in the U.S. We live in 2015 now and when you buy your smart phone you consider it yours. The struggle of owners and right holders versus technology is invading people’s lives in unpleasant ways to say the least.

Back to the topic, creating content and the D.M.C.A. for it is not simply a matter of making something and all is well. The traditional media of our time want to protect their intellectual properties because their revenues depend on it. The new media of our time like YouTube and WordPress for example enable creating new content thus intellectual property. Sometimes you can take bits and pieces of existing intellectual property for parody, education, non-profit and by mutual agreement. At the same time you have to be careful, fair use notwithstanding.

In the simplest terms it is a matter of live and let live. I am worried though. Do your own research and inform yourself…

Useful Links

For entrepreneurs, a quick summary: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228590

The PDF provided by the U.S. government: http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf

The Electronic Frontier Foundation about the D.M.C.A.: https://www.eff.org/issues/dmca

The PDF provided by the government about copyright: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf

AutoMattic the owner of WordPress about the D.M.C.A.: https://automattic.com/dmca-notice/