Just to be clear- Fair Use laws allow you to use a piece (of a song) for the (non-profit) purpose of parody, criticism, study, education, etc. It does not permit you to upload your favorite band’s videos on your own channel just because you like them. You don’t get sued or censored because you don’t get any money when youtube advertises over the video, and it’s exposure for the band. Now, there is one minor reason this issue ever comes up, and one major one (which, if you’re not one of the artists involved in this issue, doesn’t pertain to you); the minor issue being that when I’m searching for a song or video, your shitty-quality upload clogs up my youtube search and makes the whole process a pain in the ass.
Now the major issue- It has only just come to my attention that this happened (and it actually happens fairly often, even to my absolute favorite youtube personality Adam Buckley), though it took place in 2012: Dan Bull made a video using the music to Lord Finesse’s song Hip 2 Da Game (1995) to show the irony of Lord Finesse sueing Mac Miller for using it, despite the fact that Lord Finesse himself took the music from Oscar Peterson’s Dream Of You. Dan Bull’s video was subsequently removed from youtube for “copyright infringment” despite plenty of other songs and videos using the same instrumental track not being taken down (and despite that this was the correct way to apply Fair Use).
So why do I care? This happens all the time, why am I just jumping on this now? Well there’s a handful of reasons, the first and probably most influential being that I’ve only discovered Dan Bull in the last 24 hours. Suffice it to say that while rap isn’t my genre of choice, I’ve often enjoyed it mixed with other genres and have definitely made an exception for Professor Green because of the quality of writing, i.e. cleverness of the rhymes and importance of the issues rapped about. Another exception is now absolutely made for Dan Bull (love your work Dan). So that’s part of why (because I’m a fan), and why now (perhaps if I’d have discovered him 6 months ago, I would have gotten involved then. Maybe not. Doesn’t really matter now).
Another reason I’ve decided to jump on this is that I’ve always been conflicted on copyright law because I do know personally many great musicians (Bill Lonero) who can reasonably argue why free music is killing struggling artists, but I’ve also always enjoyed free access to any song I want any time I want it. I’ve definitely always leaned towards free music/media, but I also appreciate art (to the best of my ability) and believe full-heartedly that artists should be paid for their work (I’d like to get deeper into this issue, but no, we must get back to copyright discussion).
Because of (many of) Dan Bull’s videos, I decided to do a little research about copyright law, and have come to the personal conclusion (I’m an open person, I can be persuaded to change by reasonable arguments) that copyright laws, while originally intended to protect a creator so that for a limited time they may be the sole vendor of their product in order to make a profit, are now only protecting (as this applies to the music industry) the distributors/labels and not the artists. Major artists are signed to long-term, high-dollar contracts (ooh, maybe next topic from me will be what this entails, since I really don’t think a lot of independent artists understand it and I’d be getting off topic again by going into it here). These contracts ensure that, after a label recoups the money they put into the artist’s advance, advertising, distribution, etc, they (labels) will make money. There would be no point in signing an artist otherwise. When you download music (and this is heavily debated on both sides between struggling artists, but here’s my opinion), you’re generally not hurting the artist at all. Unless it’s the extreme case that an up-and-coming artist or band is really counting on iTunes sales to make or break them, you’re usually not hurting the original creator. When everyone does this though, those $.99 add up, and this can (doesn’t mean I believe it does) be a problem for labels. They need to recoup their losses and when 10 million people are downloading Lady Gaga songs, labels have the potential to run into financial trouble. Labels. Not artists. I’m not saying everyone should go download everything for free, because again, artists do depend on their labels as long as they’re contracted to get paid, and you should do your best to support the artists you like. What I am saying…
Well that’s my opinion at this time. Anyway, for anyone interested, below are the links to 1. the video that spawned this rant and song, 2. Dan Bull’s song Defending Mac Miller, 3. an article about the Mac Miller/Lord Finesse situation, and 4. an article about Dan Bull’s video being removed from youtube.