The Proud Family
“Tonight on Touched by an Angel, the miserly Chairman of the FCC learns a lesson about the heart when he has a chance meeting with a poor widow, aged 95, living on nothing but dividends from her AOL TimeWarner stock.”
According to a NewsForge story on the show:
A post forwarded to the Linux-Elitists mailing list from one of the show’s viewers gave the rest of the details about the decidedly pro-SSSCA plot:
1. Girl working at her antiquated computer her dad gave her in
2. Mystery guy (cool hip hop looking dude in black) shows up at
window and supplies her with an up to date computer, takes her
“the Matrix and shows her a web area called Free Jackster where
can get all the music she could ever want FOR FREE,
3. The girl asks if this is illegal and mystery guy explains it
our birthright to have free music, creativity should not have a
4. Girl gets addicted to collecting free music, her obsession
to telling all her friends. soon the site is getting millions of
from kids to grandmothers.
5. Next scene at the The Wizard Record Label board room where
Paid Alot” enters to complain his royalty check was only five
This alerts The Wizard (head of the label) that there is a retail
problem he needs to look into.
6. Teen Girl’s house is surrounded that night by police and
and she is arrested for illegal downloads, gets a warning,. The
makes it clear that millions of people can’t be stopped, Parents
computer away from girl and explain why free downloads is
STEALING — kind of an abirdged explanation of how copyrights work.
7. Next scene, Asian Guy’s retail record store is empty, guy is
crying on the floor. Teen Girl who happens to work at the store
up to work, Asian guy fires her for supporting all the free
8. Next scene charts showing record sales are down down down to
nothing because people get the music for free
9. Mystery guy shows up at teen girl’s window again to try and
convince her to go back to downloading but she says NO
10. Guy: “You still downloading?” Teen Girl: “Downloading is
stealin’.” Mr. Guy from Free Jackster: “I know you are afraid I am
trying to show you a world without rules.” Teen girl says, “No, its
This show is so deeply wrong headed that it’s hard to say anything unobvious, but since Disney is a gargantuan megaCorp, these things obviously needs saying.
- The company aims to use its powers as a media giant to sell viewpoints serving its commercial interests. This is analogous to a television drama doing a storyline about damage caused by restrictions on cross-ownership of TV stations.
- The show buries the publisher’s viewpoint within highminded moralizing. Like socialist realism, it merges editorial and propaganda.
Was this image of Papa Joe made to be a painting, or made to be an ad? Neither, and both.
- The morality of filesharing is a political issue. Where the show presents it as a done deal that filesharing is stealing, in reality it’s an open question being decided, right now, in the legislatures. This is a partisan viewpoint disguised as standard wisdom.
- The politics of intellectual property are about the tradeoff of public and private interests. In particular they are about tradeoffs between the commercial interests of the large publishing houses and freedom of speech. Behemoth-scale publishers like Disney are asking the public for indulgences, and just in case the adult public doesn’t grant the indulgence, one such publisher is going after the children.
- The show is for children. Intellectual property is a subtle concept even for adults. Children simply don’t have the skills to defend themselves from this manipulation.
- The show is for children. Clearly the publishers don’t believe in demilitarized zones.
Early versions of this writing contained links to the following images:
- Logo for “The Disney Club”, used satirically in this context, from the homepage for The Disney Club.
- Mickey and Minnie Mouse as the King and Queen of Hearts drawn by Walt Disney, from the website of Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.
- Socialist Realist painting of Joe Stalin from site about Socialist Realism at the Virtual Museum of Political Art.
In looking for legal support for an ability to incorporate images from the web, I found pretty much nothing good enough to protect O’Reilly’s interest in not spending money in court. With regard to using the Disney Club image to give this piece sarcastic bite, Hal Finney said:
Disney is a common target for parody as its characters are so well known
and identified with a particular corporate style. Their lawyers are
expert at suppressing attempts at parody and they will apparently spare no
expense in fighting all cases of infringement. So I think in practice you
will not be successful in using the Disney logo for your satire, unless
you have such a low profile that you never come to Disney’s attention.
With regard to whether I could use deep links to images at their home site, i.e. without actually copying them, Wendy Seltzer said:
>Is a deep link to an image a copyright violation?
It’s still being tested. Further, it’s not clear whether courts would
treat deep links and inline links differently.
In Kelly v. Arriba, now on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the district court
held that Arriba’s image search engine (now ditto.com), which made local
thumbnail copies of images and used inline links to the full images out of
context, was engaged in fair use.
On deep textual links to the inside pages of multi-page websites, most
courts have not found copyright violation. (e.g. Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com)
Needless to say, this is not specific legal advice.
The remaining question was whether O’Reilly was covered by fair use. In answer to the question, “What is Fair Use”, the Copyright Crash Course said:
We would all appreciate a clear, crisp answer to that one, but far from clear and crisp, fair use is better described as a shadowy territory whose boundaries are disputed, more so now that it includes cyberspace than ever before. In a way, it’s like a no-man’s land. Enter at your own risk.
Between weakening of fair use, legal murkiness with regard to deep linking, outright giveaways to publishers like the endless extensions of copyright terms, and the cost of defending against a suit by Disney (which is nothing if not armored with lawyers), I didn’t find enough to use any of these images. Why did I go ahead and use the quotes from the Copyright Crash Course, among others? Because the whole thing is too much of a mess to know what to do. Given the aggressiveness of copyright law, I don’t have the slightest idea whether I’m breaking the law right now.
Commercialization of speech threatens the ability to open your mouth at all.
When political speech conflicts with commercial interests, the relevant law is civil. In civil cases political protections are weak. So there is a effective method of gaming the system: political acts that can pass for commercial acts are protected by the cost of lawyers in civil court, where the accused have fewer rights than in criminal court.
In this situation Disney Corp. is a political actor, speaking under the special rights enjoyed by commercial actors. For commercial actors, having more money is a perfectly fine amplifier of viewpoints. For example, there’s nothing wrong with Proctor and Gamble having more advertising than Joe’s Bar. But with political actors, allowing concentrations of money to amplify viewpoints is not a good thing, because the political design of the U.S. is intended to flatten hierarchy in order to allow the many to rule. When political actors like Disney pretend to be commercial actors, republican government is being gamed.
By design, intellectual property law is a set of restrictions on speech for the purpose of enabling commerce. It’s a deliberate tradeoff between the agoric networks of the commercial world and the hive structure of a nation. Copyright grants proprietary interests a hold on certain statements. So it should come as no surprise that copyright can be used as ownership of, among other kinds of statements, political statements.