Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fair-Use and Copyright Law: The Curious Case of Kevin B. Lee

Kevin B. Lee, film critic and fellow blogger, has over the past few years created several stellar video essays about select films he's reviewed in his quest to see all of the 1000 greatest films of all time (as annually compiled by They Shoot Pictures, Don't They). These insightful creations juxtapose both his own criticism and that of his guest contributors with clips from the films in question.

If that doesn't constitute Fair Use under current copyright law, then I don't know what does. Of course, that didn't stop Google/YouTube from permanently disabling his account this week, instantly deleting over 300 minutes of content with only the briefest of warnings.

Matt Zoeller Seitz wrote and posted an excellent essay on this travesty over at his film blog "The House Next Door." Since it's unlikely that the corporate media will pick up on this story, I encourage anyone capable of either reposting this essay or blogging their own thoughts on this injustice to immediately do so. For what it's worth, here are some of my brief thoughts on the matter:

This is a symptom of the monopolization of the web. The micro-history of the internet has lately seemed to transition from a proliferation of content sharing tools to a corporate monopolization of those tools.

However, unlike Seitz, I have no problem with the free distribution of art - whether it's literature, film, photography, painting. One of the noblest achievements of modern civilization was the public library - i.e., the socialization and free distribution of knowledge and art. Because the truth is, artists don't create to profit. We create to share and communicate aspects of our being that would otherwise remain hidden. Sharing art isn't the crime - the crime was commodifying art in the first place, and the digitization of all of these mediums eliminates any remaining rational obstacles to the flowering and sharing of human creativity. The only remaining obstacle is capitalism, which irrationally refuses to imagine a society that nurtures art for the sake of humankind, not for the sake of the corporate exec's pocket books.

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