Sunday, March 4, 2012

Using the new anti-piracy bill to promote yourself as an artist

This morning I tried to share a video of my kids on their skateboards on Facebook for freinds and family to see and got a nasty little notification that my video may contain copyrighted material. Well, truth be told I used ACDC's song Back in Black as background music because, well, it kinda works well for the edit.

In all my commercial work I've always made sure to fill out licensing forms for library music but this kind of usage I've always considered "private" or "fair use" but of course it's probably a bit of a grey area, even though the intended sharing is primarily for family living abroad. While I don't agree with indiscriminate use of another person's artistic work - I certainly think artists should be paid for their work and it's hard enough earning a living as an artist - this kind of enforcing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is going to have interesting consequences and probably not the consequences that big labels and media houses expect.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. 

Anyway, so since I really wanted some background music for this little edit (as the alternative is me shouting "go slower" or "go faster" to my kids so that I could keep up with them on my DIY stedicam) I ended up looking for some creative commons music on a site called I found a decent track by searching for "ACDC" funnily enough - by a band called "Wild Dawn" and it does the job perfectly well. They're actually a pretty cool band and if you like ACDC style old school rock then you might just like their music. Now, had this not happened I would probably never had heard of Wild Dawn. Just think about the implications of that for a moment....

In the past every second video on YouTube or Facebook has used some background music or bits of video from a music video or a film, or text from a book or a famous poem. My wife's book club have been sharing out of free out of copyright books on their kindles for ages now but I hadn't thought about the implications of that until now.

What the folks at the big labels and media houses don't realize is that there is massive and growing library of creative commons artistic work from stock photography, video, film, music, literary work etc and this may well lead to their very downfall in the longer term.

So if you're an author, a musician or a film-maker and want to become a little more well known this is an ideal opportunity to get your work out there. This is of course not without controversy -  you're not going to make money unless you put a commercial restriction on your work so you will probably need to find a balance between giving bits of your work away for free and having licensing options for the rest. After all you're going to have to eat. I have to keep reminding my friends who share movies and music indiscriminately that if they keep doing it those artists won't have the finances some day to produce great works of art for their pleasure. We have to grow up a little and stop expecting things for free but at the same time the media houses that make most of the money off artists are going to suffer and I'm not sure I have a problem with that. The bulk of royalties should go to the artist and that hasn't ever happened in a marketplace dominated by media moguls that feed us what they think we should see as opposed to what we want to see. That of course is going to change....

The biggest problem I see with the Creative Commons approach however is that these various libraries (and perhaps even free radio and TV stations in future?) is that they might suffer from not having the same kind of quality as those libraries dominated by media moguls. In the longer term though, just as Facebook invented the Like button, these libraries will probably be sorted by popularity and that is going to force all of us as artists to produce the best work that we possibly can....and that's not a bad thing except possibly for the rare genius who like Picasso is before his time. Art is subjective anyway and producing a "work of art" or craft that people are going to like is really more of a science than an art.

Here's a link to "Wild Dawn's" album "Old School Machine". Thanks for some great free tracks:

PS: You're welcome to like or "+1" this article or tweet it or whatever the fashion is these days. that would hopefully prove my point. ;o)

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