★ Copyright Violation and Facebook

This week, we’ve had a young visitor from Germany. We took her to the Go Ape! attraction at Leeds Castle on Sunday. Being that kind of person, I filmed some of the swinging about, added a soundtrack using music I’d purchased form iTunes, and tried to upload the video to Facebook. The music in question is the Raiders March, composed by John Williams for Raiders of the Lost Ark. When the upload had finished, I received this email from Facebook:

Hello,

We have removed your video entitled (no title) uploaded at 3:10pm November 6th, 2009. We did this because it appears to contain copyrighted material owned by a third party, such as a video clip or background audio. If you believe this material was removed by mistake, you may file a counter notice of alleged infringement by following the link below.

Please note that if you re-upload this video without filing a counter notice, or if you upload another video that infringes on the rights of a third party, we may remove the content. This could cause your access to the Facebook Video application, or your Facebook account itself, to be disabled.

To file a counter notice:
File a Counter Notification

For any other questions, view our Help page.

The Facebook Team

I don’t necessarily disagree with the legal interpretation of copyright law here. Facebook is a US-based commercial company and, as far as I’m aware, if Facebook takes any interest in editorial control of its content (I recall it once censored a group of breast-feeding mothers on grounds of decency) then it loses the designation ‘safe harbour’ and becomes a target for law suits from those who think their copyright has been infringed. Thus, it should police its content proactively.

However, I added the Raider March to my video with a clear conscience. I had bought the music (not for the first time). I knew that viewers of the video would not mistake the music for something I’d composed myself. I did not think that its use would in any way diminish the earnings of the movie studio that owns the Raiders brand. And I did not consider that uploading the video to Facebook constituted a form of publication because the audience comprises a small audience of friends, any one of whom I might lend a book, DVD or CD. (I was specific about this by indicating ‘my friends only’.)

As I say, I don’t necessarily disagree with Facebook’s legal stance here. I signed up for their service and (ahem) read the licence agreement. But it’s another reminder that Facebook – while creating the illusion of a social experience – has a measure of control over the way I interact with my friends that doesn’t really correspond with the complete sovereignty I exercise in ‘meat space’.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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