I have a guilty pleasure, and its name is Glee.
I watch it with my fiancée. Don’t laugh… it’s actually a great show. The writing is superb, the characters have depth, and Sue Sylvester is probably one of the best characters in comedy TV history. And I normally don’t like musicals, but the song selection is pretty good, and doesn’t distract too much.
I haven’t seen the season finale yet (don’t ruin it for me), but I came across this article and it spiked my libertarian-meter.
In one recent episode, the AV Club helps cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester film a near-exact copy of Madonna’s Vogue music video (the real-life fine for copying Madonna’s original? up to $150,000). Just a few episodes later, a video of Sue dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 hit Physical is posted online (damages for recording the entirety of Physical on Sue’s camcorder: up to $300,000). And let’s not forget the glee club’s many mash-ups — songs created by mixing together two other musical pieces. Each mash-up is a “preparation of a derivative work” of the original two songs’ compositions – an action for which there is no compulsory license available, meaning (in plain English) that if the Glee kids were a real group of teenagers, they could not feasibly ask for — or hope to get — the copyright permissions they would need to make their songs, and their actions, legal under copyright law. Punishment for making each mash-up? Up to another $150,000 — times two.
The absence of any mention of copyright law in Glee illustrates a painful tension in American culture. While copyright holders assert that copyright violators are “stealing” their “property,” people everywhere are remixing and recreating artistic works for the very same reasons the Glee kids do — to learn about themselves, to become better musicians, to build relationships with friends, and to pay homage to the artists who came before them. Glee’s protagonists — and the writers who created them — see so little wrong with this behavior that the word ‘copyright’ is never even uttered.
I’m torn about copyright issues because I’m both a musician and an appreciator of the arts, but for the most part I’m against the idea of intellectual property. Mostly because it hinders the advancement of art and technology by slowing innovation and improvement.
But on the flip-side, I’m a drummer, and I can appreciate the fact that artists view the application of their talents to produce a piece of art as their work, and work should be rewarded. I just don’t really think this concept can feasibly be applied to music and film. And there are a number of other ways artists can profit from their art.
What do you think?