My hot take on copyright is that the system is being pulled in two different directions - as an infrastructure, it’s not really there to protect artists but for really big corporations. As a small creator, there is virtually no resources for me to protect myself from infringement. Meanwhile, pop culture - as in “popular culture” is controlled by a small number of major corporations who hoard their copyrights and thus a large part of our shared culture. The image of Mickey Mouse something that we all know in our hearts as well as the image of Christ on the Cross, and yet one corporation controls how that image is used. Imagine if The Pope had the last say on how the Crucifixion was portrayed.
In addition to the system having no resources to protect small artists, it is also difficult for small artists to legally and easily pull from that pool of our shared culture and communicate our ideas. Especially for music - up until a couple of years ago, Warner upheld an invalid claim over the song “Happy Birthday To You” that went unchallenged for decades until 2013. Like, a song that was written in 1893, that we all share as our culture, something that is a part of all of our childhood…and you couldn’t feature it in a film without paying an arbitrary legal entity. Warner hoarded a copyright illegally, specifically, they hoarded a part of our childhood.
On the other side, the idea of “intellectual property” is falling apart at the seams as the internet grows and proliferates; right now I can fire up my VPN, hop onto PirateBay right now and download any movie made in the world and not pay a cent. I can take a Justin Bieber song, add some scratches on top of the track and use it as the background for my next youtube essay and YouTube’s copyright search algorithm can never find me. And, when it comes to images, the integrity of the copyright system is an absolute disaster zone; you take a photo on monday and by tuesday afternoon I could steal it, turn it into a meme and proliferate it all over the internet without you even knowing about it.
To me, that makes me adapt a “don’t wake daddy” approach to copyright. I’m a creative person. Making art, for all of us, is an everyday spontaneous occurrence and our imaginations exist outside of the arbitrary barriers of civil law, in the way that obscenity laws saying cuss words on stage were arbitrary barriers for Lenny Bruce.
“Don’t wake daddy” in the sense that the the boundaries of how I express myself is limited by what I can get away with; on youtube, that means doing the bare minimum to avoid a copyright strike. And if the law finally catches up to me and my channel gets shut down (I’m not that flagrant about copyright on my channel and think that’s such a strike is unlikely) I’ll just start again with a new channel. Because, in this age of streaming, Patreon, and kickstarter, newer successful artists’ careers aren’t about selling a physical thing but a platform.
I look at Fair Use as a philosophical justification, not as a legal justification; I will never be able to afford to support myself in court if I’m subjected to a lawsuit, but when it comes to creative decisions with how I use others people’s work, I justify my decisions by asking myself what it “critical,” “educational,” and “transformative”…but by my own means, not a judge’s.
Byte is a small platform with small resources, so I think it is more vulnerable to those huge corporations that hoard copyrights and act in bad-faith, and without discretion. So, because of that I try to be wary about using copyrighted material in my Bytes.