In Defense Of Lane HartwellDec 16th, 2007 | By James Lewin | Category: Podcasting Law, Streaming Video, Video, Video Podcasts
Photographer Lane Hartwell is tired of people stealing her photos and reusing them without her permission.
She’s published her images, like a lot of us, on Flickr, with all rights reserved. Unlike most of us, though, Hartwell is a freelance photographer and a regular contributor to Wired News. Her work has featured in publications around the world.
So, when she saw one of her photos being used without permission or credit in the video Here Comes Another Bubble, she contacted the video’s creator, Matt Hempey, about it.
The video, a cover version of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, is a promo for Hempey’s band, the Richter Scales. Their version has new lyrics about the boom of lame Web 2.0 sites. The video features a string of images, uncredited, that illustrates the growth of these sites.
When Hempey did not respond to Hartwell’s request, she contacted YouTube and asked for the video to be taken down.
Parody Or Piracy?
Some consider the video to be hilarious. But Hartwell isn’t laughing.
“It‚Äôs extremely frustrating to me that my work keeps getting stolen,” says Hartwell. “I feel like a broken record‚Ä¶having to explain why it‚Äôs not okay to just take an image because you like it or want it. I work hard at what I do and want to be paid, period.”
Hartwell’s action, and a Wired article that told her story, has triggered an eruption of discussion in the blogosphere. Many of the responses have been negative, with some going so far as dragging Hartwell’s name through the dirt.
At TechCrunch, Mike Arrington says that Hartwell is a bully that misunderstands copyright, that she ruined everyone’s fun and that the people that support her are “a mob”.
Arrington says the real issue here isn’t copyright, it isn’t about getting paid for your work, it’s that “Hartwell‚Äôs feelings were hurt.”
“Once again, a perversion of copyright is being used to destroy art!” says Arrington.
Many of Hartwell’s critics argue that the use of images in the Richter Scales’ promo video is parody or fair use and that no permission should be needed.
The problem with this view is that it’s debatable. Fair use and parody aren’t cut and dry, and that’s why these differences of opinion often end up in courts. It’s why Viacom is suing YouTube for a billion dollars.
While some people may think the Richter Scales’ Here Comes Another Bubble is a hilarious parody, others may think it’s a lame promo video that rips off Billy Joel, Hartwell and dozens of others. Some may view it as a bit of fun, others may see it as a shrewd way to garner attention for an unknown San Franscisco a capella group.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
A great guide to the issues that video podcasters and others sharing videos on the Internet face is Colette Vogele’s Podcasting Legal Guide. Vogele is one of the leading experts on podcasting law and the Guide is published by Creative Commons. The guide includes sections on using video and images and also a great discussion of fair use.
One of the points that Vogele makes is that fair use isn’t cut and dry, and that subjective impressions can make a difference:
Some commentators refer to a ‚Äúfifth fair use factor‚Äù which hinges on good faith — whether your conduct might be considered ‚Äúmorally offensive,‚Äù Judges and juries are human, and their decisions can be swayed by whether they think you are a “good or bad‚Äù actor.
The Richter Scales probably could have avoided the hassle of getting their video yanked off YouTube if they’d just given credit where credit is due. While the Richter Scales were getting significant attention as a result of their promo video, the people whose work they’d appropriated weren’t. A few credit links would have fixed this.
The Richter Scales have admitted at their blog that it was a mistake not to give credit where credit is due:
“Some folks have left comments saying we should acknowledge all the people who created the images we used in the video. Good point. We will go through the video and cite every source, and wherever possible, we will credit the original photographer. Once the list is up, if you see a mistake in it, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to rectify it.”
Hopefully, the group will repost their video, updated to respect others’ copyrights and to give credit where credit is due. Otherwise, they’re misunderstanding the realities of copyright law and ruining everyone’s fun.
Update: Tara Hunt has a great take on this controversy at HorsePigCow. “If we want the ‚Äòfree the content‚Äô world to work – and that would be ideal for all – we have to learn to respect the work and the producers of that work. Putting our productions online shouldn‚Äôt mean that we give up all claims and possibility of profiting from it and we should discourage those who abuse this. Just like in the English medieval commons, we need to understand that: Common property and open-access free-for-alls are very different things.”
Lane Hartwell Image: Laughing Squid