The lawyers now want a shot at YouTube. All that copyright in violation All that intellectual property at risk. All those hours ripe for billing. Brother, can you hook a lawyer up?
There is a simple solution, a way to keep them out: make certain the quality of YouTube remains deplorable. This will indicate that we are not posting the original clip from Borat, but a representation of the first form. It isn’t pretty…and that’s a good thing.
The YouTube version is a copy. It’s purpose is indexical. It exists to point to the Platonic original. It does not pretend to duplicate the original, anymore than a road sign for New York City duplicates New York City. So enough of the lawyerly anxiety that says if copying is allowed, copyright is void. There are copies…and there are originals. The imperfections of YouTube help make this distinction clear. Only an idiot or a lawyer would confuse them.
Or, let’s think about this from an economic and anthropological point of view. This is the difference between stealing and borrowing. When we steal, we make ourselves the beneficiary of value that someone else has created. When we borrow, for these YouTube purposes, we create value for ourselves without diminishing value for the owner.
But of course, on the internet, borrowing actually results in value augmentation for the owner. My use of your material gives you exposure. As long as the quality is bad enough, no one is going to pay me…or not pay you. This point is now "standard issue" wisdom in the internet economy. I don’t know who said it first. Doc Searls? But everyone gets this, including the likes of Mark Cuban. The lawyers should really stay in more.
More social scientifically, when we "borrow" something to show on YouTube, we have effectively nominated ourselves as diffusion agents. Without the first, second and third adopters, many world transforming innovations would languish at the precipice of Geoffrey Moore’s chasm. This too is entirely clear. I can’t believe in a time of very noisy markets and positively Amazonian competition that producers wouldn’t want every diffusion partner that comes their way. I can’t believe they would want to shut themselves out of the wisdom crowds.
The problem here may be one of vested interest. Every profession has found a way to make itself the beneficiary of the new economies and cultures that the internet has opened up. Lawyers, on the other hand, have not been quite so well served. I don’t say we should doubt their motives when they call for the protection of copyright. Um, yes I do.