★ 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’.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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