Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And more e-piracy notes

So let me ask you: am I unreasonable to think that all copyrighted material should be paid for?

Seriously, what is the difference between downloading a book and a song? Or a movie? Or art? Is the line between public domain and e-piracy blurred beyond recognition?

For example, I've been doing book trailers. Every image that I use is either (a) mine for the purpose of promoting my book, (b) a classical work of art with the original artist dead and thus in the public domain or (c) downloaded from a free image site. Sure, I could make much cooler trailers using screenshots of great fantasy art but I don't. I stick to the images that I can obtain legally. The same thing goes for the music I use. Mozart is dead. His music is public domain. No one owns the copyright to the Requiem Mass.

Now then, here's where it gets sticky. Let's say that someone owns a CD of music. They put the CD into their computer, copy the music, and use that as a basis for a book trailer. Let's say that album is Metallica (yeah, I picked them specifically because of their stance against e-piracy.) Do I have the right, since I bought the album, to use their music as background for a book trailer?

*pauses for a moment to giggle at the thought of Elves and Enter Sandman as theme music. Oh, dear*

Take it a step further. Say that I own an illustrated copy of Lord of the Rings. Add to that the three movies. Since I own those, can I use THOSE images of Elves for my trailers?

My position is: No, I cannot. I cannot use another person's intellectual property (or their faces in the case of actors) to represent my own work. Isn't that frighteningly similiar to, well, I don't know---plagiarism?

The SWFA's position on this is as follows:

Electronic piracy, or e-piracy, is the theft of electronic rights from writers
and artists. E-theft occurs when a party, without authorization from the
copyright owner, makes an electronic copy of a work, and causes it to be
available to others. It does not matter if this is done by the transfer of files
from person to person, or if the work is posted to the Internet. It is still
theft. (link to this article at: http://www.sfwa.org/epiracy/)

As far as I can tell, that covers the entire gambit of images, text, music, and films now available on the Internet that are not specifically labelled as public domain or available for free download with the permission of the creator. How hard is that to understand?