The past few months a movement dubbed Where’s the Fair Use? (or #WTFU) has been circling the Internet and most notably Youtube. Spearheaded by Doug Walker of Nostalgia Critic fame Where’s the Fair Use? was originally created to take aim Youtube’s strikes and claims policy and how it can be abused by unscrupulous people looking to cash in on a content creator’s hard work. Since then it has grown into a larger debate about what is copyright infringement. So today I wanted to discuss why fair use needs to be protected and how some people are trying to frame this fight in a negative light.
-Like it or Not, Media is Changing-
I’ve talked about this before on here, but it needs to be said again. Traditional media has been left scratching their head when it comes to how Youtube works. I’ve read articles and seen newscasts that act as though it’s some fluke that Youtubers are actually making money off the “little videos” they post. How could some random person point a camera at their face, upload it to this site, and get people to watch it? This right here is the problem. The old guard can not fathom why someone would watch online videos when their products are made with more money and better resources. What they fail to see is that these creators keep a more watchful eye on their audience and know what they want. Studios are still using antiquated market research to greenlight films and TV shows with no exact certainty of how they’ll pan out. This gives online creators a much stronger connection to fans and makes for more entertainment people want.
-How is Fair Use Suppose Work?-
Before we dig into the recent problems let’s talk about what Fair Use entails and how it’s suppose to work. In a nutshell Fair Use states that a person can use snippets of copyrighted material for news segments, parody, criticism, research, and academic purposes without having to pay to use said material. This means someone could take clips from a film and use them in their videos so long as you’re not uploading the entire film.
-In “The Grey” Area-
This where things get tricky. Studios are beginning to say that because Youtubers can monetize videos where they use copyrighted material they’re reaping the benefits of other people’s hard work. In turn, they claim that this affects the sales of the original product in a negative way. Apparently, if you see a person online making fun of a film or playing a video game you yourself are not going to see the film or play the game. While I can only speak for myself this has been quite the contrary. I’ve watched numerous films that I never would have regularly based on how someone online spoke about it. I remember seeing the trailer for The Grey and thinking, “This looks like another bland Liam Neeson action film.” In spite of that I watched a review online where the critic spoke of how the trailer misrepresented what the actual film was about. I decided to give it rent and to my amazement it was a stellar film. What looked like another bland action film about men being chased by wolves turned out to be a harrowing story of man vs. nature.
-Why is This an Issue Now?-
I guess this would be the main point of my article. There have always been people who have operated under Fair Use in the past and it’s been perfectly fine. Without Fair Use we never would’ve seen “Weird Al” Yankovic’s career take off as it has over all these decades. We also would’ve never been able to hear Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel debate the merits of the films that would playing in our local theaters every weekend. So why after all these years are studios getting up in arms about now? My only guess is because the Internet is so readily available that once something gets posted they know more people would see it now than they would have in the past. This in turn makes them assume that if bad news travels faster then less people will get suckered into their mediocre products.
No matter what you may think about online content creators this is a very serious issue. If it keeps going the way it has who knows how many artists will be forced to quit creating. Or even how many will never get their chance because they’re too afraid of being told, “No, you can not say that because we’ll make sure your video gets taken down.” Let your voice be heard in this debate at the link below. And if you want more information and first hand accounts of how Fair Use is being trampled check out Walker’s video, “Where’s the Fair Use?”