Re:create, the copyright coalition that includes members from industry and library associations, public policy think tanks, public interest groups, and creators sponsored a program – How it works: understanding copyright law in the new creative economy – to a packed audience at the US Capital Visitors Center. Speakers included Alex Feerst, Corporate Counsel from Medium; Katie Oyama, Senior Policy Counsel for Google; Becky “Boop” Prince, YouTube CeWEBrity and Internet New Analyst; and Betsy Rosenblatt, Legal Director for the Organization for Transformative Works. The panel was moderated by Joshua Lamel, Executive Director of Re:create. Discussion focused on new creators and commercial businesses made possible by the Internet, fair use, and freedom of expression.
We live in a time of creative resurgence; more creative content is produced and distributed now than in any time of history. Some creators have successfully built profit-making businesses by “doing something they love,” whether it’s quilting, storytelling, applying makeup, or riffing on their favorite TV shows. What I thought was most interesting (because sometimes I get tired of talking about copyright) was hearing the stories of new creators – in particular, how they established a sense of self by communicating with people across the globe that have like-minded interests. People who found a way to express themselves through fan fiction, for example, found the process of creating and sharing with others so edifying that their lives were changed. Regardless of whether they made money or not, being able to express themselves with a diverse audience was worth the effort.
One story included a quilter from Hamilton, Missouri who started conducting quilting tutorials on YouTube. Her popularity grew to such an extent that she and her family – facing a tough economic time – bought an old warehouse and built a quilting store selling pre-cut fabrics. Their quilting store became so popular that fans as far away as Australia travel to see the store. And those people spent money in Hamilton. In four years, the Missouri Star Quilting Company became the biggest employee in the entire county, employing over 150 people, including single moms, retirees and students.
But enough about crafts. The panel also shared their thoughts on proposals to change “notice and take down” to “notice and stay down,” a position advocated by the content community in their comments on Section 512. This provision is supposed to help rights holders limit alleged infringement and provide a safe harbor for intermediaries – like libraries that offer open internet service – from third party liability. Unfortunately, the provision has been used to censor speech that someone does not like, whether or not copyright infringement is implicated. A timely example is Axl Rose, who wanted an unflattering photo of himself taken down even though he is not the rights holder of the photo. The speakers, however, did favor keeping Section 512 as it is. They noted that without the liability provision, it is likely they would not continue their creative work, because of the risk involved in copyright litigation.
All in all, a very inspiring group of people with powerful stories to tell about creativity and free expression, and the importance of fair use.