Sometimes, the internet makes me feel like an old soldier. I once fought a war, but was overwhelmed, defeated, and now I survive only to wander the wastes of my former home as my enemy, the forces of Stupid, control my government and marry my women. Usually, I just shake my head and move on. For what can I do? The citizens of Stupid have grown soft and weak, but there are still much too many of them for any war to be successful, for anyone to be able to push them back and regain the territory that was once ours. When confronted once more with the Stupid, generally the only choice is to just ignore it and go home.
But sometimes, every once in a long while, I see something and just snap. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just something one of the Stupids has done one too many times. Today is one of those days. I’m once again taking up my sword, and rejoining the fight against Stupid on the Internet.
If you’ve made your way to this site, I’m going to assume you know your way around the internet. You’ve been through the slums, the back alleys, eaten at that one restaurant where the burgers are more grease than meat, had your share of local flavor, and made it back to tell the tale. You’ve probably seen this so many times before. Fan-fiction, AMV’s, songs and televisions clips reposted to YouTube, all of these copyright infringing works, with an accompanying statement. Usually it’s along the lines of “I don’t own this!” or “No copyright infringement intended” or “This song is copyrighted by Your Mother, Inc.” when the poster really has nothing to do with Your Mother. In any case, the uploader realizes that there’s these bizarre things called copyrights, and thinks that by putting up such a disclaimer, they can avoid violating these rights.
Right now, I’m going to recommend you put a hat or something on, because I’m about to blow your mind and you may need something to keep it from getting too messy. So, Copyrights give you the rights over what to do with any copies of an intellectual property you own. I know, right? I’ll give you some time to get your mind back together.
For example, in a previous post, I created the character of Brick Stronggroin. Under American law, certain copyright protections are applied as soon as a work is created, so that character is mine until long after I die. And considering there’s a good chance I might be immortal (long story), that could be a really freakin’ long time. Until he lapses into public domain, nobody else can use him without my say-so. That includes copying and paste exactly what I wrote myself to a new site I’m not reaching. That includes properly attributing him to me. That includes not claiming any ownership of him. Specifically, he cannot legally be copied, nor can any copies be made of what I’ve posted without me giving approval or signing away the rights to him. If he is copied, any money made off of his likeness belongs to me, as far as the courts are concerned. I’d also have the right to demand that any copies of him be destroyed. If I went a step further and registered his copyright, I’d also be able to pursue punitive damages on anyone who used him.
Now, there are fair use protections, ways to use copyrighted materials without infringing on the copyrights themselves. We’re not going to get too much into fair use here because it’s a little complicated in application and would probably make for a boring post, but just understand that fair use is primarily concerned with the reason behind the use of copyrighted materials. And ‘Because I wanted other people to see it” is not a fair use reason. Unfortunately, the proposed “I Do Not Own” provision to the Copyright Act of 1976,17 U.S.C.§107 has largely fallen on deaf ears.
So yes, saying “I do not own this!!!!!1111oneoneone” is absolutely useless because copyright law is entirely unconcerned with the public knowing who owns what. Besides, I’m pretty sure that nobody gets confused and starts thinking that Youtube uploader GokuKaiba16 has the money and technical know-how to produce a 52 episode anime series. We know you don’t own the work you’re uploading or the property you’re writing fan-fiction for. We’re not as stupid as you seem to be by thinking that protects you.
I’ve got a special place in my heart for the “No Copyright Infringement Intended” disclaimer, because it is just so ridiculous. Nobody listens to my claims of “I didn’t do it on purpose!” when I am accidentally too sexy around some poor sucker’s girlfriend, so the chances of anyone listening to you when you deliberately infringe copyright and then post the equivalent of “I didn’t mean it!” are astronomically low. Posting a song or movie without permission is copyright infringement. I somehow doubt you managed to upload all of One Direction’s latest album accidentally, so your claims that you didn’t mean to violate copyright are simply flat out lies.
And one final thing that’s not directly related to the matter of copyright disclaimers: you know how sometimes fansubbers will put a ticker at the top or bottom of t what they’re working on saying something along the lines of “don’t put this on streaming sites!”? I find those so hilarious. They take works out of the control of the owners and creators, actively encourage pirates to download them, yet still have the gall to demand control of the distribution methods.