Copycats

This is probably my third or fourth discussion on the topic of Copyright, and sadly, it doesn’t get anymore interesting. Although it isn’t as exciting and engaging as other topics in media studies, it is one of the most important.

In class, we were asked to express our opinions on copyright, piracy and the dilemma of digital audience practices. Most of my peers agreed on the same thing:

If you were to create something, i.e. an image, other people can use it and edit it as long as they –

  • Do not make excessive amounts of money off of it
  • Do not take complete credit for it, and
  • Do not decrease it’s value

Sounds pretty reasonable, don’t you think? However the issues of copyright and piracy go far beyond this and aren’t as simple, with debates over personal morality and the survival of the film industry. By watching the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars online, I am slowly taking away the many dollars Hollywood deserves to be earning.

This topic brought me back to a video which I was shown throughout my first year of my studies. A YouTube account named “Bad Lip Reading” uses already made music film clips and movie trailers and changes the audio and dialogue, solely to create parodies for entertainment purposes. An example of this YouTuber’s work is Michael Buble’s music film clip Haven’t Met You Yet, where the YouTuber has created a new song called Russian Unicorn and has tried to make the lyrics in-sync with Michael’s.

Personally, I find the song quite catchy and the whole video hilarious. However, this YouTuber has attracted over six million views, created a fan base and has also managed to have their Russian Unicorn song available for downloading on Itunes and Amazon. Now the question is, who should be receiving the credit for this? The YouTuber who created the ‘Bad Lip Reading’ video or Michael Buble, whose music film clip is being used? Shortly after this video was uploaded to YouTube, it eventually got the attention of Michael Buble himself. Michael describes the video as “one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen” and said he was “very proud to be apart of it even though I had nothing to do with it.”

Other YouTuber’s commented on Michael’s reply video, stating how he basically thanked this anonymous person for stealing or using his video.

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 1.16.33 AM

There have been extreme cases in the past where music artists and copyright holders have taken copyright to its extent. For example, in 2007, Stephanie Lenz uploaded a twenty-nine second video clip of her children dancing to the song “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince onto YouTube. Later that year, YouTube removed the video, as the copyright holder, Universal Music Corporation, claimed the video was a copyright violation. Stephanie Lenz requested for the video to be re-uploaded as she stated it was protected under fair use. Lenz sued Universal for misrepresentation under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Prince and Universal released statements outlining their intentions on removing all user-generated content involving Prince from the internet to reclaim his art.

So to go back to Michael Buble and Russian Unicorn, it is pretty cool of him to admire the work of others, even if they are reproducing his original work. In my opinion, if you’re willing to present your work or “art” to the public, you should be aware of the consequences and that others can use it for other purposes. If everything was strictly copyrighted, how would we be able to be inspired to create our own work? And lets be honest, the anonymous source behind “Bad Lip Reading” isn’t nearly as famous and successful as the original Michael Buble himself.

To watch more videos of “Bad Lip Reading”, visit the YouTube page http://www.youtube.com/user/BadLipReading

References

BadLipReading, 2011, “Russian Unicorn” – a bad lip reading of Michael Buble, online video, 11 July, YouTube, viewed 10/09/2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjaZNYSt7o0

Collett-White, 2007, ‘Prince to sue YouTube, eBay over music use’, viewed 11/09/2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/09/14/us-prince-youtube-idUSL1364328420070914?feedtype=RSS&feedName_InternetNews&rpc=22&sp=true

Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2007, ‘Lenz v. Universal’, viewed 11/09/2013, https://www.eff.org/cases/lenz-v-universal

Michael Buble, 2011, Michael Buble Video Reply: Russian Unicorn, online video, 21 July, YouTube, viewed 10/09/2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5DvQgIKe2M

Stephanie Lenz, 2007, “Let’s Go Crazy” #1. online video, 7 February, YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1KfJHFWlhQ

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