Copying Is Not Theft, But Censorship Is

Crossposted from

This morning a friend shared with me some amusing American Sign Language videos, and in return I wanted to share with him my favorite ASL video of all time: B. Storm's interpretation of the Gnarls Barkley song Crazy. Only I couldn't because it was gone. Why? Because "This video contains content from WMG (Warner Music Group), who has blocked it on copyright grounds." This is appalling for many reasons, not least of which being the video is almost certainly fair use.

WMG youtube block message

Copying is not theft, but censorship is. When a video is blocked, banned, erased, or otherwise censored, we don't have it any more. The commons is robbed. When B. Storm copied the song Crazy into his video, WMG's copies were still there. When WMG censored B. Storm's video, it was gone.

I couldn't accept that such a great video was simply gone, so I attempted to recreate and re-share the original video. I found a silent version and combined it with the song, which I captured from the official video using Audio Hijack Pro (having written that, I expect storm troopers to bust down my door any minute now). Unfortunately its sync was a little off; soundtracks end up slightly different lengths and speeds due to all the different kinds of compression out there, and the song I captured was slightly longer than what B. Storm had on his original video. Fortunately another web search, using different terms, led me to this website of videos curated for deaf kids, which miraculously contained the unmolested video embedded from weebly. This I was able to download, and then re-upload to Vimeo where it's easier to share and embed. Of course it could be taken down at any time, so get it while you can:

Great art like this matters too much to passively let monopolists erase it from our common culture. When you find good videos online, consider making local back-up copies. We never know what's going to be censored when, and without audience back-ups some great art could be lost forever.


Starting out the New Year: QCO Minute Meme sighting on Al Jazeera

Happy New Year!  In 2012, we wish for more and more people everywhere to question copyright, and for more artists and audiences to take the plunge into freedom-based distribution.

Speaking of which, was anyone watching Al Jazeera English when QCO artist-in-residence Nina Paley's Copying Is Not Theft Minute Meme came on?  We'd love to know more about the broadcast that this image comes from:

Minute Meme "Copying Is Not Theft" being shown on Al Jazeera English (live stream).

Someone sent it to Nina via Facebook -- that's all we know about it so far.  We hope they showed the whole thing, though!

(Anyone with further information, please leave a comment here or contact us.)


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