Free Expression & Copyright Piracy

| June 19, 2015

Free Expression & Copyright Piracy


2-page double spaced (cited)


Read Case Study Vidding — Free Expression or Copyright Piracy? at the end of Chapter 13 in your text. In one to two pages, supported by evidence from your text and from other research, respond to the following questions:

Using the ethical criteria introduced in Chapter 4 (utilitarianism, rights, and justice), is the creating and uploading of vids to the Internet simply an ethical expression of one’s free speech, or is it an infringement of intellectual property?
Where do you draw the line when using material found on the Internet, but trying to respect the artists’ intellectual property and rights to royalties from their creations? How different should a vid be from the original source to justify that it is no longer the same material as the original artist created and thus not covered under the copyright laws?

Vidding—Free Expression or Copyright Piracy?
“It’s on the Internet, publically available, so it must be free to be used.” “It is simply a way for me to express myself.” “It is totally different than what they created, it is mine now.” And so go the arguments to justify, ethically or legally, the increasing practice of vidding among young and old alike. This issue was so controversial that National Public Radio aired a one-hour feature on its show All Things Considered on February 25, 2009, to bring the differing opinions on vidding to light.
Vidding is the practice of creating new videos, sometimes called songvids or fanvids, which takes existing clips, usually from popular television shows, anime series, or music videos, and blends them with a song. It is a mix of narrative storytelling and visual poetry. These new forms of entertainment or self-expression can be transferred to different formats and made accessible on the computer and the Internet. While blossoming at a rapid pace, vidding raises serious ethical and legal questions regarding copyright protection versus free speech.
The first songvid is attributed to Kathy Fong, who at a Star Trek convention in 1975 showed a slide show of Leonard Nimoy (Dr. Spock on Star Trek, who often repressed his half-human side) singing a Joni Mitchell song. Fong said that she wanted to show Spock’s dual nature. More recently, vids often compile dozens of clips from various episodes of a television show or movie set to music. The band Good Charlotte, for “example, edited gritty crime scenes from CSI: New York with their own mournful songover, saying they wanted to show the dangers faced by police on the show.
Some argue that vidding is really just free expression. “The media seem to think they own the things they’ve pumped into my brain in 27 years,” said British vidder Lim. “It seems to me ludicrous that television spends so much time and so much money care- fully colonizing my mind. But it is my mind.”
“Vidding is a way of seeing,” explained vidder Francesca Coppa, who is a professor at Muhlenberg College and author of scholarly papers about vids. “This is our place to talk [referring to the Internet],” said Coppa. She believes that YouTube serves as a public square for opinions and conversation in this technologically wired world. Georgetown University law professor Rebecca Tushnet, also an occasional vidder, agrees: “Viddeers should not be treated like pirates. They’re people responding to culture in noncommercial ways.”
Yet, the space and material being used for vids is owned, raising serious legal questions concerning intellectual property. Like people who download music without paying a fee to those that created the music and hold the copyright, vidders are using material owned by others without compensating them for their intellectual property. However, Henry Jenkins, a leading academic in popular culture studies and author, argues that while vidding does use previously copyrighted material, it does so in a way that would hardly be recognized by the original artists. Vidders “are not simply trying to recover what the original producers meant. They are trying to entertain hypotheticals, address what-if questions, and propose alternative realities.” Since only small snippets of video images are used and no profit is made, some vidders and lawyers argue that vidding should fall under the Fair Use exception to copyright laws.
Nevertheless, vidders’ use of copyrighted material, such as clips from television scenes or movies and copyrighted music, appears to be in violation of the law. Web sites, such as YouTube, caution against the uploading of copyrighted material, even though thou- sands of vids have been uploaded there. As a matter of policy, YouTube will remove illegal material, such as vids containing unapproved copyrighted material, if informed of the violation of copyright laws.
Others wonder if vidders (or lawyers for that matter) would be so tolerant if they dis- covered vids contained their own original (and copyrighted) work or images but presented in an unflattering way. Just as musical artists believe that their work and creativity should earn them royalties, so do the creators of television clips or video images. In addition, beyond expressions of creativity, vids can be used as propaganda or in ways that may be viewed as slanderous or in bad taste. People whose images are used in these objectionable vids may want to seek legal recourse. These ethical and legal issues have become more prominent as vids have proliferated on the Internet.
Sources: “Vidders Talk Back to Their Pop-Culture Muses,” National Public Radio, May 30, 2009,; “Best Practices in Fair Use in Online Video,” Center for Social Media,; and “Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the Vidding Underground,” Reason Magazine, August/September 2008,”
(BUS 250 339)
BUS 250. McGraw-Hill Create.






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