In the fun category, Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University has created a video review of copyright principles. You’re probably thinking, “How could anyone make a video about a legal concept even mildly entertaining?” But Faden’s truly inspired video works on many levels because it consists entirely of extremely short clips (often no more than one word) from a wide variety of animated Disney movies. It’s thanks in large part to Disney that copyright – which was designed to encourage creativity by giving the creator control over copying for a limited time – now lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years, or, for a work of corporate authorship, 120 years from the date of creation. But thanks to the short length of the clips, its non-profit educational nature, and the fact that it would in no way affect the potential market for the copyrighted works, Faden’s video undoubtedly falls under fair use.
Moving from fun to games, the latest idiocy to emanate from the U.S. Department of Justice is a legislative proposal (in other words, something the DoJ would like Congress to turn into law) that would criminalize copyright infringement. (For a selection of entirely reasonable, real-world copyright infringements that could be criminalized by this proposal, see my article, “J.D. Lasica’s Darknet: People in the Copyright Wars,” 2006-06-05.) Under this proposal, the RIAA wouldn’t have to settle for extracting money from citizens who may have infringed copyright; instead, they could just get the federal government to take away the miscreants’ computers and throw them in prison. That’s right – the DoJ wants people who even attempt to infringe copyright to be liable for property forfeiture and prison time, just like drug dealers.
And to make sure that none of these attempted copyright infringements go undetected, the DoJ wants to allow law enforcement to wiretap personal communications in copyright infringement investigations. The sheer audacity of this proposal is astonishing – it’s hard to do more than sputter, “But but but!” as you read it. But what you can do is write to your elected representatives to urge them to oppose this proposal if it is introduced; the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a tool that makes it easy.
[Updated 30-May-07 to correct copyright term lengths in the first paragraph and to reference Cornell University’s Copyright Protection Chart.]