Thursday, April 5, 2012

No one expects the Copyright Inquisition

It's the time of the year to keep the earth-circling serpent from tightening its grip by making a pysanky-method Easter egg. I did my part. (Don't come complaining to me, all ye non-pysanky-method-Easter-egg-makers, when they prove that global warning is caused by an earth-circling serpent.)

Then I got los cuatro oboistas del Apocalipsis over to the house to record an instrumental version of the first and eponymous movement of Stabat Mater, by G. B. Pergolesi (it was originally scored for two women's voices). Then I recruited my egg into the Ballet Pysanka and made a little movie as my way of saying "Happy Easter, y'all."

It wasn't 15 minutes before I got a message from Youtube that my video "matched third party content." The message guided me through a process that gave me choices ranging from doing nothing and waiting for future action from the copyright owner (though ads might begin to pop up when the video was played) to disputing the claim.

You're damn right I disputed the claim. If this isn't public domain, there ain't no public domain. Pergolesi died in 1736. I'm pretty sure whatever claim he might have has expired. The performance is los cuatro oboes del Apocalipsis; it is, I'm absolutely certain, the only four-oboe performance of Stabat Mater in the entire universe--including any alternative ones you might want to throw in. I filed my dispute and, to Youtube's credit, within hours they had removed whatever copyright lien there was on the video.

Still, it was disturbing. What I'm thinking is that a robot matched the musical content to other video performances (using choirs or voices in duet) and through up a red flag to cover Youtube's DMCA ass. But it's also possible that somebody out there has tried to copyright a performance of Pergolesi, which is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Although not surprising. Over at the Librarian Party in Goodreads I've been reading Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law by Jason Mazzone. He documents case after case of entertainment industry over-reach that has all but destroyed our heretofore healthy sense of the public domain and drastically weakened the legal doctrine of fair use.

To the point that when you put up your own video Easter card with ancient music bizarrely arranged, copyright's Grand Inquisitors come knocking.

If it was Halloween, I might understand.

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