That’s it. I’m dumbfounded, my inexplicably small brain has exploded. I recently learnt that “Happy Birthday”, arguably the most sung song in the history of all things, is copyrighted: if you sing this song publicly or commercially, you are immediately breaching it’s copyright laws. Well there goes my sanity. How can it be that something so common and so easily “accessed” can be copyrighted? What’s the point? That would mean that every single person who has ever publicly sang the song, is a criminal! (guilty as charged) Growing up in a copyrighted world makes me wonder what is was ever like without it. Everything that had ever been created was accessible and able to be replicated or copied within your own free will. Awesome! Wait … no, that’s bad. As much as people think how restriction free the world would be, there would be no originality, no ownership of anything and no such thing as intellectual property (not so awesome). You original piece of IP (intellectual property) let’s say a song, could end up on national radio, being sung by some famous band claiming it to be there’s, or in the latest Disney movie, even though it was yours in the first place. So, when considering this, it only seems fair that there be some sought of law or act be implemented. And it was; the US Copyright Law was created, and stated that there was to be a monopoly that the IP could not be copied for 70 years after the author’s death, and if the author was a corporate company, it was then extended to 120 years of monopoly. And this next little part has slightly ruined my childhood (slightly); the main supporter who pushed for this law was, yep here it comes … Disney.
So now that we’ve established that yes, our lives are now controlled by technology and copyright laws, it leaves us with certain things that we can and can’t do. Firstly, there are two factors which govern your rights as an individual willing to comply. There’s a thing called a “public domain” which allows you to copy and remix anything under copyright, seems legit right? Then there’s this wacky thing called “Fair Use” which, unfortunately, has it’s limitations and does not serve as defence force against a nasty thing called litigation, and the limitations to Fair Use like what you’re actually wanted to use a piece of work for and how much (you get the idea) and this whole idea is probably best described in the article by Steve Collins (go ahead, make my day and read it). Now to the yucky side… what you can’t do. Ugh. There’s a little something called Digital Rights Management, which essentially has control over the access to all of the content in the world basically. Spyware, licensing, encryption, authentication, litigation … sound familiar? Well these are the channels through which the DRM takes control. If you buy a video game, for example, the DRM has total control of how you use it and restricts your access to it. So basically if you look at the licensing agreement it’ll say something like “you have no ownership of this game even though you paid $x for it sorry, have a nice day” well a little more formal than that and with a lot more big computer type words but you get the idea. Have you gone completely insane yet? Thought so. Back to the point, next there’s the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which makes sure that the DRM can’t be avoided or evaded, by making it a criminal offence. Yeah, you should be scared. And the last long-worded acronym/law is the End User License Agreement or EULA, which is the Godfather of all laws and goes beyond even the Copyright Law itself, and it does this by (doing what i just explained in my example about buying a game) granting the buyer of, let’s say a video game (again, yay gamers!), the permission to play the game without actually having any ownership of it at all, doodle squat. Ouch.
If by this stage you’re cowering in the corner of your room clutching every last video game you ever bought screaming “It’s mine! I bought it!” then just remember… the internet, which is the online encyclopedia of everything that has ever been uploaded, has unlimited control of what can be copied (yes i did say unlimited) and therefor makes it a completely FREE and PUBLIC domain. Yeah, you’re mind has been blown hasn’t it? You’re welcome! Which leads us to question (as pointed out to me yesterday) why in the world would you ever pay for anything on the internet again? Ever? Why would you bother when you can simply download it for FREE?! Just think about that.