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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Copyright or Arbitrary Decision

A few day ago I uploaded a short video at Microsoft website soapbox.msn.com and it was rejected because of 16 seconds of background music taken from the 5th Symphony of Beethoven. I can't remember exactly How of got that mp3, but it does not specified who the performer was and if the material was copyrighted or not. I believe that I ripped from a CD that I bough from a "Dollar Store", place from where I usually buy a lot of Classics per pennies. The inclusion of those 16 seconds at the beginning and end by me was what I thought a "fair use'' taking in consideration the nature of the video: teaching.

In limited situations, you can use copyrighted works without permission from the copyright holder. It can be difficult to figure out whether use of copyrighted works without permission is legal, though, because the laws in this area are often vague and vary from country to country.

The copyright law in the United States has a doctrine called “fair use”. Fair use provides a defense to copyright infringement in some circumstances. For example, fair use allows documentary filmmakers to use very short clips of copyrighted movies, music and news footage without permission from the copyright owner. Fair use is a difficult concept because determining whether something is a fair use involves weighing four factors. Unfortunately, weighing the fair use factors rarely results in a clear-cut answer.

Rather than applying a fair use test, many other countries have specific exceptions to copyright infringement. The number and type of exceptions vary by country, but they frequently allow copyrighted materials to be used without permission from the copyright holder for activities such as nonprofit research, teaching, news reporting, or private study. (quote taken from MSN help)

I contacted MSN looking for an explanation and the answer was simple: the music used in my video was a copyright violation. Copyright hold by whom? I asked, Beethoven or that unknown to me performer who is also doing the same thing, he is performing Beethoven because there is not any copyright to pay.

But anyway, I though that after all MSN has the right to host what they want.  So I decided to play by their rules. I went to a Composer's web site www.stock20.com  and bought a little song and received my license which clearly says:

Synchronization Rights
Stock20.com grants you, the Purchaser, the right to use the music as a soundtrack "synced" with visual images as part of your production.
Public Performance Rights
Stock20.com grants you, the Purchaser, the right to use the music as part of the public viewing or broadcast of your production (including but not limited to TV shows, videos, Dads, web sites, pod-casts, multimedia presentations, and films).

Armed with that license, I reedited my video and uploaded it again at MSN. And here is what I got:


 And here is a portion of my license:


And here are the two copies of my video, with Beethoven and with Daniel William Rudd's Composition. Both posted at Youtube. MSN's competition.


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