The Fault in Our Copyright Laws

The conversation in class last week about freedom and copyright reminded me of a video that John Green made a year ago about the importance of copyright. For those not familiar with him, John Green is a Young Adult author who also makes YouTube videos with his brother, Hank. In the video, John discusses a poster design that he found on tumblr based on his novel, The Fault In Our Stars.

To summarize: the poster was created by one person, combining a painting created by someone else with a quote from the book. As confusing as that sounds, this is a relatively common situation on the internet. People are constantly collaborating with one another to create all kinds of artwork. Copyright would only inhibit this creative process. Copyright is meant to protect the creator, but what happens when it stifles creativity rather than fostering it?

Copyright is an incredibly important means of protects creative license, but sometimes it can go too far. For instance, an author would have a copyright on their book meaning no one else can use that material without their permission. But this means that fans of the book would not be able to create anything based on the book, as the creative content is under copyright. But these creators are only trying to express their love and enjoyment of the novel; shouldn’t they be able to create artwork inspired by the original work?

The issue of money further complicates copyright. Take the situation with the book from before. Imagine that someone created artwork using a quote or some other integral aspect of the book and then sold that artwork. We can probably guess that author wouldn’t be too happy about someone else making money off of their creativity, especially if the artist claimed it as their own.

I probably haven’t explained this well, but I think copyright law boils down to one simple thing: ownership. What can we legally claim ownership over? Ideas? Writings? Artwork?

One comment

  1. This reminds me of another video that John made about trademarking.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaVy_QCa1RQ
    In this he explains why he and his brother have not trademarked their signature catch phrase. As they love to see the content their viewers create, by enforcing the trademark they would have to see that go away. I think this is where all of these laws have a flaw. They do not allow for others to take what you have and create a new idea around it. As you said, ownership is a huge part of copyright law and now with this new digital age, there needs to be a reworking in what that really means now.

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