Another thought provoking copyright decision

Last week the 9th circuit reversed a Los Angeles federal judge and ordered Google to remove the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube. The ruling is controversial for a number of reasons.  This blog does not intend to take a position, but rather to lay out the facts and perhaps relate them to the genealogical world.

Facts.

  • The actress was paid to create a scene for a specific movie
  • The movie was never made
  • The scene was later included in an anti Muslim film with her voice dubbed over with an insult to Mohammed
  • The actress claimed copyright to her artistic work (It is important to remember that artistic expression retains the same copyright protection as writing a book or painting a picture)
  • The court upheld her copyright and ordered Google to remove the film

Over the years, as I held copyright discussions, the concept of using a copyrighted work in an “unacceptable” way was one of the hardest concepts to explain.  I would mention using a holocaust book in a Nazi display and other equally ridiculous ideas that no one could quite see happening.  Is this in fact that type of use?

Google, in its arguments, stated that taking the video down from YouTube would be pointless as it had already been widely distributed and that Garcia had contributed to her “notoriety” by filing a lawsuit to stop the video.  The 9th circuit called this argument preposterous and actress Cindy Garcia stated she is a “strong believer and supporter of the First Amendment and the right not to be associated with this hateful speech against her will.”

As I thought about this case it made we wonder about some of our “genealogical” practices.  We are wonderful collectors,users, and sharers of stories, sometimes to the point of forgetting the rights of those telling the stories.  Do we record without permission?  Do we share oral and video sessions without permission? Do we make a point of having a signed release for anything we have recorded?  If someone has sent us a family story do we make sure we have permission to share it before we do?

An oral or video recording might in fact be subject to copyright protection for artistic performance as well as protection for the telling of the story itself.  While facts can not be copyrighted the creative telling of factual circumstances can.

Another thought I had as I reviewed this case was the right to privacy of individuals.  That permission to share stories, recordings and videos can be really important in protecting privacy.  We are very quick to share stories and more on instant media: facebook; youtube; google+ and more.  Are we sharing items that others might be not want known?  Does the right to know drown out the right to privacy?

There are many fine lines that we need to pay attention to as we share our genealogies.

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Filed under Copyright, Ethics, Genealogy, Laws and Legal Decisions

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