Copyright Laws and Fair Use Laws Are Confusing But This is My Understanding

Confusing is the least of it.  I have been doing some research on what I can and cannot use on my personal blog.  From what I understand, most things can be used as long as they aren’t for commercial purposes.

When it comes to commercial uses, that gets a little bit tricky too since the law is vague and seems to be determined on individual basis.  I was looking into it because I was reading some tech news this morning and over the last week (here and there) where YouTubers are taking a huge hit.

Granted, I only get informed of these things because my kids like to watch YouTube gamers and some of them haven’t been getting paid for their work because some company that they work for folded or something to that effect and because I read something like that, my feed automatically sends me things along these lines and this morning I was reading about YouTuber being scammed by copyright infringements and their work is being held hostage until they pay a fee to people who actually don’t have any authority to do so.

So it got me thinking again about copyright laws and what do they mean to me.  I don’t want to get into some bullshit pickle over what may or may not be in violation and the laws can be extremely vague and up to interpretation.

For instance, I used a clip from the X-Files theme music.  You would think everyone knows that it obviously isn’t mine and for what it’s worth, I thought that copyright infringement meant something more along the lines of stealing someone’s work as your own or to make money using someone else’s work without paying royalties or attributing credit to the original authors or something like that.

Still, with as saturated as the internet is, it’s really impossible for me to know who the original say, jpg came from so I assumed that images that you searched on the internet were free for public use unless it was blocked with a watermark or specifically asks that you get permission to use it OR you cannot upload and use the image because it’s been blocked for that purpose.

So I try to think about it in a way that seems to be reasonable to me.  If I put up a pic or original song that others found so amazing that someone decided to use it to make money off of and I got nothing for my own work, YES then I would be upset and file a suit because that would be unfair for someone to make a profit off my work while I get nothing not even a mention.

In other circumstances like writing a review for a tv show or movie,  is it copyright infringement to use the poster work for the show when obviously YOU/I couldn’t make a new one because that would be misleading and I think  that would be grounds for some other sort of lawsuit.

Then there is piracy, making illegal copies of something and then redistributing them either for free or for profit.  I can understand that as a crime.  It seems pretty straight forward but not sure how that relates to things like that previously mentioned.

Still the weirdest thing I came across was reading about the laws specifically which read something to the effect that it’s looked at in four categories but it seems summed up like this.

  • It’s intended use.  Was the use of it intended to make a profit OR to gain popularity or something to that effect.  What exactly does that last bit mean?  Is that talking about radio stations playing music without the right copyright permissions even IF they don’t make a profit?  I would think that is what it’s referring to because I can see how something like that would effect the artists’ profits.
    • Is this also defined by using music from YouTube when the videos are directly linked to their source? That’s the part I don’t really understand.  You’d think that when it’s on a platform like YouTube then it’s meant to be shared hence the share buttons and that the original makers of the videos obtained the rights redistribute the work.  Is this always true?  I think that’s where it get’s frustrating for some people.  I would think that if someone on YouTube didn’t get the rights to use something that is being distributed on their channel would be penalized for it but not everyone who unknowingly shared and used it for their own personal use. Ie; VEMO, a channel that is specific to music video uploads vs. someone who’s channel has a list of favorite songs that are shared on their own channel.
  • Personal use vs. Commercial use.  This one also is iffy.  I have a personal website.  I write on it for my own benefit.  I do not have an organization and I do not make a profit off of anything here BUT if I decided that I wanted to use third party affiliations like Amazon or Adsense THEN my blog would no longer be non-commercial use BUT would that then mean that putting YouTube videos on my site is in violation of copyrights?  I wouldn’t think so IF everything placed on your site was properly linked BUT if someone decided to pirate the items (make illegal copies) and upload them directly from their computer then that would be.
  • Now that brings to question the use of jpg.  Which is iffy.  Like I mentioned before, does using a jpg from a movie review violate copyright laws?  I would think not but using one as the main header creating an illusion of affiliation or the original creator, THAT I could understand.

Now the weirdest of all the weird that I read.  You CAN use whatever you want if you are doing it for certain purposes such as research or if it’s the news or something.  The news I can understand and research seems like a no brainer but then there was this part about criticism which leads me to a thought that I think is pretty f’d up.

You can use a work and criticize it or change the narrative or idea of it.  So if I wanted to be an asshole I could take a piece of art and tear it to pieces because I am allowed to be a critic and that would not be in violation of copyright laws because the intended use was not to make money to do the opposite.  Destroy it! lol

This got me thinking about the nature of the internet (social media and the news).  Does this have anything to do with the negative nature of those environments?  It’s okay to slander someone’s work  and get away with it but you’ll pay a fine if you use something in a positive light.  If I like a piece art and featured it in a post and directed you towards their sales page or something but also placed ads on my site, then I would be in violation BUT if I decided to make a profit off of destroying someone because the objective has changed the nature of discourse from the original work then that is okay?  I really hope I misunderstood what I had read.  Otherwise it means that there is profits to be made off of destroying other people/work.  What is that, monopoly control? At any rate, you’d think there would be a lot more defamation lawsuits abound with that sort of shit happening.  (social media is bad kids)

Most of this stuff seems ridiculous.  I would think that when someone really likes something and wants to promote it, then that would be doing the other a favor by providing positive feedback and directing others towards the creator and their effort shouldn’t be penalized for making a few dollars on the side through affiliated adverts.

It is what it is.  For the most part, I would think these laws would mostly effect those who make a shit tone of profits off of things like that because if they are making that much money then it seems only fair that the original creators of the content also be compensated because not doing so would be inherently greedy and akin to theft.  It seems like a fine line.  Am I 100% sure?  NOPE!  I am not sure because again, if it was something I created and someone was using it without my permission and making money (even if just a buck) then I would be upset that I am not making money for my own work but someone else is.  In the world of money,  not all are created equal.  A few bucks made off a nobody is stealing.  A few bucks made off someone who is already filthy rich and well known, that’s free marketing.  I know.  But you see the difference.

But for others who might make maybe a few hundred dollars a year off their efforts through indirect advertising, I would think that’s not even enough to be considered stealing from the artists (especially if the pennies were made for something else) but more like compensation or low cost PR for other artists.  Think about it.  They could pay someone hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote their work or they can just let their fans do it for them and it cost them nothing out of their pockets and they’ll never be asked to pay anything back.  In the pro-bono section, it sounds like these things are also in violation but from the way I understand pro bono, it’s meant as a service that requires compensation upon the outcome of the service and IS an agreement between the two parties otherwise it seems more like extortion one that would be laughed at if any regular joe like myself tried to do. hahaha.  Could you imagine!?  Still, it actually happens.  Refer back to the top about YouTube.  Holding people’s videos on lockdown until a fee is paid.  Copyright extortion.

In any event.  I think it would come down to common sense.  Be in the shoes of the artist or authors.  Think of it in terms like this.  I could be wrong but it seems reasonable.

  • Are you making a living off other people’s work and not give them a share of your profits for work that belongs to someone else?
  • Are you using other peoples work to gain popularity?
  • Have you copied something from someone else’s works, blog, book etc. and not use block quotes or attempt plagiarize the material giving the illusion (on purpose or not) that you came up with it on your own or that it is you original thought?

In the end, I think that if you are or I am in some sort of violation then someone would let you know.  I could be totally wrong about what I understand about copyright laws so it’s best if you read them yourself.  I would also leave a link but I think that things like that are up to you to follow up on and you choose which sites you’ll accept as valid.

I would NEVER take what I said to be 100% accurate especially since I am not a lawyer and the law can be quite tricky even to lawyers.  Just sayin.  That’s why there panels of judges to determine the correct execution of the law which is why they are called judges.



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