Copyright or sharing publicly online, but not both
If you are a content creator, you probably have experienced it at least once, someone shamelessly copying your content.
However, you could simply contact the website owner and get it removed, right?
Well, the answer to that is actually often a simple “no”.
But why you might ask?
Well, that’s because most often you allowed it to happen in the first place…
Copyright is a quite old concept and legal right disallowing someone to copy, translate, adapt, perform, communicate, recite, broadcast, reproduce, and in any other way use what you made without your approval.
In a simple way of explaining, copyright gives you to the right to choose what happens with your creation.
However, the fact that this is an old concept and right is also what causes the problems online, as the international copyright conventions were never created with the thought of the internet.
That being said, not all of today’s problems arise from the internet.
As before we get into the actual problems of the internet, let’s also take a moment to note another problem that has arisen by people not being truly aware of how copyright works.
One of the most noteworthy problems is managers. As what a lot of people forget is that when they sign with a manager, they almost always give away their copyright. A notable example of this is how signed music artists generally don’t hold their own copyright, but the record label behind them does. Hence also a spark of more independent/indie artists in recent years. Because of this, the artists themselves are generally not the ones who choose what happens with their creation, their record label does, and if you as artist state to someone that he or she may do something with your work, and your record label doesn’t agree, then your record label could still enact the copyright to disallow and pursue the one which you as artist gave invalid permission to use your creation. That while if it is the other way around, meaning you don’t agree with your record label, you have nothing you could do. Besides, if you would change record label, your copyright often remains with your old record label, meaning that you completely lost any connection to your own creation… And while this is an example of music artists and record labels, this reflects on most content creators and their management.
When it comes to the internet, the problem regarding copyright usage is actually quite similar to what I have explained just now.
As what many content creators are unaware of, is that when they share their content on a certain website, they don’t just allow themselves to share the content, they generally allow anyone to share the content on the website.
This is how the problem regarding YouTube started, as the fact that YouTube now allows copyright holders to monetize their content which is shared by others is a favour YouTube is offering to them, but not actually a requirement for them to do. The same applies to the ability to hide/block content based on country and disallowing people using your content. This was all also noted during the GEMA-YouTube copyright dispute by Google’s Kay Oberbeck, Universal Music’s Frank Briegmann, and Sony Music’s Edgar Berger. As leading record labels Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, and BMG all have stated publicly before: the fact that people re-share content online is often a blessing for content creators, as long as the necessary licenses are obtained, especially when it comes to music videos, as it is a form of publicity and will increase sales. That being said, they all maintain a policy that if an artist wants certain content to not be re-used, they will support this and take the required actions.
It doesn’t actually matter if you are some famous content creator or just some random person, if you shared something on YouTube and someone else re-uses it, YouTube is not required to disallow it, nor is any other website if you shared it somewhere else. This is especially noteworthy to famous content creators, as quite often you hear them act like their content is better copyrighted than those of some random person, but that is actually not true. At most of the world the Berne Convention is enacted, which automatically grants copyright, and there is not some sort of “additional copyright” that you could obtain.
Now, regarding online sharing, you have to understand that the copyright applies to a certain entity when you allow someone or something to use it. In the case of the internet, it is most often regarded by the website at which it is hosted. As an example, I pay the copyright collective Buma/Stemra for the ability to share sub-licensed music on this particular blog. Meaning, I could share anything I am licensed to share through any page of this website. However, I could not simply share it at my YouTube channel, as this is regarded as a separate entity. Hence I have to pay separately for my YouTube shares, as I do. The website and all of the pages are regarded as one entity and not me as a person.
And yet, while this problem seems unsolvable at first, there is a simple solution to this all, which is not sharing your content to websites that allow others to upload their shares as well, like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and pretty much any of the other most-used websites these days. Which is especially worthwhile to do in combination of Article 13 of the upcoming EU’s new Copyright Directive. And yes, it will hurt to quite a lot of people, and it will make certain industries have to put more work into getting publicity. Which actually is something that companies like YouTube and such, but also end-users should be supportive of. As this would lead to improvement in terms of advertising, for that is what most content creator would finally have to start using (more dedicated), and possibly would lead to advertising becoming truly effective again. As it’s hardly a secret that internet advertising hasn’t been doing well, as actually shown by Grammarly taking almost all Adsense spots for some time already, causing a lot of websites using Google Adsense to look like spam websites. Although using Google Adsense as a publisher is frowned upon these days regardless, caused by Google’s far too strict policies, and I don’t mean just in terms of YouTube. But that need for publicity would also make content creators and their management more open to licensing it to end-users to create publicity. Sure, it would lead to the end of YouTube and some other websites, but quite some are already facing their end regardless. And yes, that includes YouTube.
The reality about copyright in its current state is that it doesn’t reflect the internet well enough, and there are easy solutions to solve the online copyright problem. Sure, there is the possibility to make copyright apply to pages instead of websites, but that would only create more problems, especially in terms of what people are already complaining about when it comes to Article 13 of the EU’s upcoming Copyright Directive. The only true problem, which remains even with the upcoming changes, is that people are too often not even aware how copyright works in the first place. And that is a problem that will remain until we cut down on laws, and just leave the most obvious rules to be our countries’ laws…