The most common justification given for copyright law is that it helps creators make a living.
Yet instead of helping indie musician Edwyn Collins, a corporation with absolutely no claim to Edwyn’s work was able to step in and prevented him from distributing his own work online through the employment of spurious copyright allegations. I mentioned Edwyn’s tale previously, but it is certainly well worth repeating:
Scottish performer Edwyn Collins never gave up control over the copyright to his own music. As an Indie musician he set up a MySpace page where he was making his music available for his fans to download. Or at least he was until suddenly an erroneous take-down order resulted in MySpace taking down Edwyn’s music, preventing him from sharing his hit song A Girl Like You. Yet Edwyn Collins was the rights holder, the record company was not. Because of the traditional power invested in the major recording companies, MySpace did what they were told by the record company even though the record company had no legitimate claim to Edwyn’s music. (One of the bad things about the DMCA; no proof is required.)
Edwyn Collins had to fight to get the right to put his own music on his own MySpace page.
“[We are] aware of who the biggest bootleggers are … It’s not the filesharers.”
~ Grace Maxwell, Edwyn Collins wife/Manager, Guardian: Edwyn Collins stopped from sharing his music online
Today I discovered Canadian writer Cory Doctorow was facing the same problem. Doctorow is a best selling novelist who self identifies as a copyfighter, or perhaps “the” copyfighter. Most of his work is released under Creative Commons licenses, yet Torrent Freak reports that the digital downloads he’s made legally available online are being hit by spurious take down notices. Clearly copyright law is interfering with the writer’s ability to distribute his own work in the manner of his own choosing.
“My Creative Commons licensed 2013 novel Homeland, the sequel to my 2008 novel Little Brother, spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and got great reviews around the country. But Fox apparently hasn’t heard of it — or doesn’t care. They’ve been sending takedown notices to Google (and possibly other sites), demanding that links to legally shared copies of the book be removed.
These notices, sent under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, require that the person who signs them swears, on pain of perjury, that they have a good faith basis to assert that they represent the rightsholder to the work in question. So Fox has been swearing solemn, legally binding oaths to the effect that it is the rightsholder to a file called, for example, “Cory Doctorow Homeland novel.”
It’s clear that Fox is mistaking these files for episodes of the TV show “Homeland.” What’s not clear is why or how anyone sending a censorship request could be so sloppy, careless and indifferent to the rights of others that they could get it so utterly wrong. I have made inquiries about the possible legal avenues for addressing this with Fox, but I’m not optimistic. The DMCA makes it easy to carelessly censor the Internet, and makes it hard to get redress for this kind of perjurious, depraved indifference.
— Cory Doctorow Fox sends fraudulent takedown notices for my novel Homeland
As long as copyright law enables large corporations to suppress the distribution of creative works they have no claim to, the ability of independent self publishing authors, musicians, and film makers to make a living from their own creative works will continue to be at risk.
Edwyn Collins photo © Guillaume Sautereau / POPnews
released under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License
“Homeland” cover art released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivs 2.0 License (by-nc-nd)
Cory Doctorow portrait by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.