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Post #1: YouTube, What’s Your Problem?

So, as a lot of you guys know, I like making AMVs (anime music videos) rather
frequently. For the rest of my friends who don’t know, yup, I’m one of those nerds who
likes to sit there for hours syncing anime and video game clips to a song I think fits the
story or one of the characters--that’s what making an AMV is (more specifically a GMV,
since I stick to video game music videos, but they’re more or less the same thing so I
don’t make the distinction).

Well, as a couple of you might have noticed, I just kind of stopped making AMVs for a
while. Looking my YouTube account, it’s actually been about a year and a half since I
gave up. Part of it was because of all the difficulties I’ve been having with Windows
Movie Maker (if anyone knows of a better program, for the love of God please tell me
about it). However, the other, larger factor in my abandonment of the hobby was called
back to my attention again earlier this year.

What really made me stop trying was that I got sick of working so hard to make a good
AMV when no one ends up getting to see it anyway. I would struggle for hours to
properly trim and place clips, trying to fit the musical cues as well as forward some
specific meaning for my video. I got sick of putting so much effort into these expressions
of adoration for the music and games involved only to have YouTube take it down less
than ten minutes after I put it up, claiming I was stealing someone else’s work.

…Really, I stole it? Because I’m pretty sure I remember sitting in my uncomfortable
computer chair until four in the morning working so enthusiastically on my music videos.
I feel as though I pointed out my sources fairly clearly, which is more than a lot of AMV
makers (who don’t get blocked, I might add) do. This one
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B68D5s49nY), for example, actually used to be
blocked, but they put it back up with an ad for the “Knights of Cydonia” mp3 download,
which I have no problem with--Muse deserves to make money for their awesome music!

Anyway, yes, I know my last video was blocked in May. I was rather upset about it then
too. The only reason it’s taken me until now to get irritated about it again is because, at
that time, I was too pumped about going to Japan for two weeks to waste time being
upset. However, when I finally got a fantastic idea for a new AMV the other day, I found
myself stopping and thinking, “…why bother? It’s just going to get taken down in a day
or two anyway, if you can finish it in the first place.”

I really don’t like that feeling, y’know? I don’t want to be negative, but I hate wasting
effort to make something literally no one else is ever going to have the chance to see. I
really don’t like being discouraged from doing these creative works because they keep
being rendered unviewable. I feel like an artist who is watching someone burn all my
paintings because they were inspired by someone else’s work.

All ranting aside, I really do think I might look into this more. Of course I feel like I’m
the one who’s wronged, but I suppose there really is some chance that I’m the one who’s
wrong. YouTube says my videos are being blocked because of copyright infringement,
but I really wish they would explain how I‘m infringing copyright so I could maybe,
y’know, stop. I mean, that’s breaking the law. I don’t want to be a criminal.

TL;DR: I’m sick of having my videos deleted by YouTube, and I wanted to find out if
I’m really doing something wrong or if they’re just being jerks. Looks like it’s solo
research time. I’ll keep you guys posted on what I find.

Sources:
Freel, Rhiannon. “Dead Fantasy ~Knights of Cydonia~.” Online video clip.
YouTube.com. YouTube, LLC, 23 Oct 2008. Web. 24 Nov 2010.

Post #2: Wow, Copyright Laws Are Confusing… (a.k.a. OMG, how do lawyers DO this
for a living?!)

Alright, so, I’ve done a bit more work researching the whole “why does YouTube hate me
for making awesome AMVs?” issue (first post is here: link).

…Actually, to be perfectly honest, it’s been more than a “bit more” work--figuring out
what the heck the laws on copyright are is ridiculously tedious and over-complicated. I’m
serious, the only other thing I’ve ever encountered that has left me so confused and
utterly frustrated has been Honors Ethics this semester. Several of you have seen/heard
my less lengthy rants about that.

To start my search for the truth of whether YouTube’s enslaved by tightwad record
companies or if I really am breaking the law, I figured I should start by looking at
YouTube’s policies. After all, if they’re enforcing the law (which they should be), they
should explain what that law is.

My goodness.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t sit there and click through every link (though I did have to hunt to
even find what I was looking for), but those were some of the vaguest policy guidelines
I’ve ever read. Here they are so you can see for yourself without spending 10 minutes
hunting like I had to: http://www.youtube.com/t/howto_copyright. The most specific
advice this page gives on how to avoid copyright infringement is to “use your skills and
imagination to create something completely original.” I could go on a rant about how
there is no such thing as original material, but I think I’ll save that for later.

As I had decided to in the first place, and further motivated by YouTube’s lack of
specificity, I decided I’d go and look at the actual copyright laws as well. I found them
here: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html. (The site seems legitimate, it is the
official Copyright Office’s website).

Holy crap. As mentioned in the title, I cannot fathom how lawyers do this for a living. I
read through several parts of this repeatedly and still couldn’t get a full grasp on what the
hell it was saying--this ONE title, ONE portion of the MASSIVE United States Code!!
How do lawyers not only understand, but MEMORIZE all these laws and policies?! It’s
insane!

But enough about lawyers. My point is this: how can we be expected to obey the laws if
we can’t even figure out what they mean?

(Another quick digression: Don’t any of you go commenting, “Oh, I read it and
understood it fine the first time--what was so complicated?” I know several of you are
smarter than me, as well as most other people. I’m speaking from my own experience.)

I need to do a bit more research if I’m going to understand this at all. More rants to
follow when I know what’s going on.

TL;DR: YouTube was just about useless in helping along my search, and the copyright
laws themselves are really confusing. Go go gadget Google!

Sources:
Copyright Law: Chapter 1. U.S. Copyright Office, 2009. Web. 10 Nov 2010.
“Copyright Tips.” YouTube.com. YouTube, LLC. Web. 10 Nov 2010.

Post #3: Copyright and Fair Use

You may recall my recent rantings about how YouTube hates the AMV community and
how American law is near-indecipherable. My last two posts on this subject can be found
in my notes here on Face book (or here: link and here: link, if you’re lazy, lol).

Anyway, thanks to YouTube not being quite so useless when you follow the correct
endless stream of links, I think I finally have some grasp of what the heck copyright and
related laws covers!

I started on YouTube’s how-to page for copyright and followed a few links, though I
don’t recall which ones, and found even more vagueness, but this time with links to
explain all the stuff YouTube apparently couldn’t for whatever reason. The two most
helpful sites listed were http://chillingeffects.org/ and
http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/, which were
specifically created to help people understand copyright and what things are protected by
fair use. Thanks to these sites and a rather conveniently scheduled lesson in my
Composition class, I have a much better idea of what the rules are.

Overall, pretty much EVERYTHING is copyrighted. No, I’m not even kidding. There’s
the obvious things, of course--books, movies, music, etc. But some of them are less
obvious. Basically, as soon as you say or write anything, it is copyrighted. Texts with
your mom about what to eat for dinner? Copyrighted. Joking with your friends about how
boring your last class was? Copyrighted. This very rant? Apparently, copyrighted.

However, there are several different categories of things that, though they would
normally count as copyright infringement, circumvent punishment due to the Fair Use
policy. Fair use is described in Title 17 of the U.S. Code
(http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html ) under Section 107 (ctrl+f will help you
immensely, if you bother to look at the link). Reproduction of copyrighted work is okay if
you’re doing it to comment upon it, criticize it, teach about it, or if you’re using it for
research. According to that Stanford site, parody is also protected as a form of
comment/criticism.

There are also several would-be copyright infringements that do not fall under any of the
legally mentioned categories, but are still permissible due to the criteria that is used to
judge what counts as fair use. These guidelines are, essentially:

1. Why you used the copyrighted work, what you did to change it, and what it
says about the original work (this is frequently called Transformative Use)
2. What the copyrighted work used was in the first place
3. How much of it you used and how important those bits of it are
4. How your use of the copyrighted work effects its marketability

Another aspect of possible fair use that is considered is whether your use of the
copyrighted material is, overall, positive or negative. As you could probably assume,
negative portrayals/uses are judged more harshly than positive ones, and vice versa.

As helpful as the Fair Use policy is (especially to my purposes), this is also where things
sink back into gray area and you might still be screwed anyway. If you look at the actual
phrasing of Section 107, it’s very vague. As is with many other laws, legal consideration
of fair use becomes a case-by-case scenario. What might be fair use in one case isn’t in a
very similar one. It really depends upon the judge.

This subjective quality of fair use presents some problems for those trying to anticipate if
their use of a copyrighted work will be considered illegal or not. In fact, this gray area
has caused so many problems, some believe the Fair Use policy should be eradicated
entirely (I would provide a link here, but I found the article this opinion is expressed in
through a private database. Citation of this article will be at the bottom of this post,
author name Campbell).

Considering how fair use protects educational purposes, as well as freedom of speech (in
the form of comments and criticisms), discarding fair use would cause far more problems
than it’d solve. Still, the point remains: with or without fair use, there are problems.

I’m sort of having some problems with fair use too, in applying it to AMVs. I can see
some aspects that would count as fair use, but some that might not. I’ll consider this in a
more focused manner in the next post.
TL;DR: Everything is copyrighted, and infringing copyright is against the law. However,
if you’re careful about how you do it, it might count as fair use. Unfortunately, it’s up to
the judge if you’ve infringed carefully enough or not.

Also, adding citations in this post (also going back and adding them to my old posts):
Campbell, Robert A. “Why the Fair Use Doctrine Should Be Eliminated.” Society 47.4
(26 May 2010): 322-327. Web. 10 Nov 2010.
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Harvard Law School,
Stanford Law School, and others. Web. 10 Nov 2010.
Copyright Law: Chapter 1. U.S. Copyright Office, 2009. Web. 10 Nov 2010.
“Copyright Tips.” YouTube.com. YouTube, LLC. Web. 10 Nov 2010.
“Stanford Copyright & Fair Use - Fair Use - .” Stanford Copyright & Fair Use. Leland
Stanford Junior University, 2007. Web. 15 Nov 2010.

Post #4: What Fair Use Means For My AMVs

Continuing directly from my last post (link). So, here it is, the moment of truth: are my
AMVs legal, or do I need to cease and desist so I don’t get sued?

First, let’s look at what I’m using for these music videos, and how much. So far, all of my
completed and uploaded AMVs have been made of clips from video games (almost
entirely Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy) and songs by some of my favorite musical
artists, like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Avenged Sevenfold. Considering the songs range
from about 3 to 5 minutes long, and I’ll guess that these games have at least 7 hours of
cutscene footage each, the visual aspect of my AMVs is likely a negligible case of
copyright infringement.

Considering how the clips are shortened and rearranged, that would also likely count as
transformative use. I can support this by assuring you YouTube has never blocked one of
my videos claiming matched content to the clips. Video doesn’t seem to be the issue.

However, the songs I use are used in their entirety, excluding a portion of a song I used
for the opening credits in one video and a self-made mix of two versions of the same
song in another video. The amount of copyrighted work used is what screws me over
here. I could claim transformative use on this too, saying the imagery transforms the
meaning of the song, but that seems like a weak argument, especially since the purpose of
an AMV is exactly the opposite. It looks like the music is the problem here.

The music seems to be the problem for many people, including AnimeMusicVideos.org
(http://www.animemusicvideos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=60255). They lost all AMVs
including content from Evanescence, Seether, and Creed to a cease-and-desist letter from
the owning record company.
I can attest to this situation on YouTube: every video I’ve had blocked has been done so
at the request of the record company in charge of the song I used.

My (and many others’) AMVs are safe under most of the other guidelines, however. A
very small portion of AMVs are created for profit. Even when AMVs are made for
contests, those contests usually have no prizes for the winners except the pride of
winning. I’ve never made my AMVs for any reason but fun and to get the idea out of my
head--except my most popular AMV, which was a Christmas gift to my boyfriend.

I certainly don’t make my AMVs to make fun of the game or song involved. Meredith
Cantoni, another AMV creator, sums it up rather well for me in an article I found: “I think
that anyone who is a fan just wants to create and work with the footage that they love.”
(http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fo20071115pm.html).

TL;DR: My AMVs, and those of most others, are illegal, regardless of their redeeming
qualities. Well, this is depressing.

Sources:
Macias, Patrick. “Remix this: anime gets hijacked.” The Japan Times Online. The Japan
Times, 15 Nov 2007. Web. 18 Nov 2010.
Phade. “View topic - Evanescence, Seether and Creed videos no longer available.”
AnimeMusicVideos.org. AnimeMusicVideos.org, 15 Nov 2005. Web. 20 Nov 2010.

Post #5: It's Not YouTube or the Law—It's the Record Companies

Last post (link), I finally came to the realization that my and most other AMVs are, in
fact, copyright infringements. Looking at things again, however, I’m not sure how much
this really upsets me. There really are worse things than this, even within the realm of
copyright infringement.

AMV-makers may not be doings things entirely legally, but we are not the worst
offenders, and at least we’re doing something constructive and creative with our law-
breaking.

One of the first, shorter arguments I will express falls more under a slightly different
issue, but effects this as well. I personally don’t believe it is the record companies who
should be telling us if they’re okay with how we use their bands’ music--that should be
up to the band itself. Even in some cases where the band approves, the record company
will send a cease-and-desist anyways, overriding the band (which strikes me as wrong,
since the music belongs to the band, not the company).

In the previously mentioned case of The Org’s mass AMV take-down, one of the
Evanescence AMVs removed was allegedly approved by Amy Lee herself.
http://www.animemusicvideos.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=60255
One of the common defenses of AMV-makers is that most of us make no profit off of our
videos. Not only do we not make money off of these AMVs, but it could be argued (and
frequently is) that the very record companies that condemn us make more money because
of our activities. Most of us own legitimately purchased copies of the materials we use,
so piracy is not usually a compounded issue in our case.

Not only are we more likely to have legal copies than most other people, but our use of
those copies is more likely to make other people buy the source materials as well. The
combination of music and clips can introduce viewers to new bands or new shows, if they
happen to know the song or video used but not both. It is much easier to just buy the
DVD/video game/song than try and download it, if the video gets them interested in the
unknown source material.

Looking at it this way, the record companies are punishing us for helping them, which
sounds a bit absurd. Even looking at these guys as stereotypical corporate money-
grubbers, it makes little sense. What right-minded businessman would pass up free
advertising?

On YouTube especially, the advertising situation is even stronger now than before--many
copyright-infringing videos are allowed to stay up on YouTube with a link to the official
iTunes purchase for the song. In this way, we’re making it even easier for people to
discover and legally access new music.

Even setting aside our helpfulness, record companies have worse perpetrators to worry
about. We may “misuse” the source material, but at least we do not outright steal it as
many others do.

Piracy is much more damaging to the industry and breaks more severe laws than AMV-
creation does. For their own sake, companies really ought to focus more on those pirates
than us artistic fans.

Some may argue that there is nothing artistic about AMVs, and that creators of them in
fact have a lack of creativity. An Ask John blog post from AnimeNation
(http://www.animenation.net/blog/2003/09/08/ask-john-why-are-anime-music-videos-so-
popular/) illustrates the basis of my argument fairly well.

It’s not a matter of us being unable to make our own videos--we just don’t want to. We’re
paying tribute to our favorite songs, shows and games. The AMV-maker’s creativity is
only a factor when considering how entertaining or overall “good” an AMV is.

I’m not trying to ignore the illegality of AMVs. Even if you edit or remix the original
song to use it in the AMV, it still may not necessarily be considered fair use. What I am
suggesting, however, is that others ignore it as they do with other similar things.

Unauthorized covers of songs count as copyright violations, according to the sixth item
under Section 106 of Title 17 (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#106). Still,
action is rarely taken against the cover artist, even though covers are frequently far more
popular than AMVs. Greyson Chance’s famous cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” is a
shining example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxDlC7YV5is.

Fortunately, this seems to be becoming less of a problem as time goes on. It’s taken some
time, but some record companies are acknowledging AMVs and GMVs as free
advertising on YouTube and are taking advantage of this by placing iTunes ads for the
music involved at the bottom of the video’s description. Several of my AMVs have been
permitted or unblocked with the advertisements.

Though it’s not explicitly clear why they are doing this, many of us AMV-makers are
glad they are. Few of us have a problem with the advertisements--like I said in the first
post, these artists deserve to make money for their awesome music!

Slowly but surely, YouTube is becoming a more encouraging environment for creativity
and appreciation of art. For the sake of continuing to refine my compositional and
musical abilities, I can only hope that this trend continues. It is far more motivating to be
praised and critiqued for work than having to struggle to show anyone what you’ve done.

TL;DR: Screw legality. We’re the lesser of several evils anyway. Commercially, we’re far
more helpful than harmful. Fortunately, this seems to be more recognized recently, and
hopefully things keep going in that direction.

Sources:
Chance, Greyson. “Greyson Chance Sing Paparazzi.” Online video clip. YouTube.com.
YouTube, LLC, 26 Apr 2010. Web. 24 Nov 2010.
Copyright Law: Chapter 1. U.S. Copyright Office, 2009. Web. 10 Nov 2010.
John. “Ask John: Why are anime music videos so popular?” AnimeNation Anime News
Blog. AnimeNation, 8 Sept 2003. Web. 18 Nov 2010.
Phade. “View topic - Evanescence, Seether and Creed videos no longer available.”
AnimeMusicVideos.org. AnimeMusicVideos.org, 15 Nov 2005. Web. 20 Nov 2010.