On Friday, Lucasfilm released clips from its Star Wars movies on Eyespot, a San Diego company that both hosts a website and produces editing software. As I noted in my SD Telecom blog, Eyespot’s cooperation with licensed content is in stark contrast to the GooTube business model.
On his Madison.net blog, Mike Madison added a copyright law wrinkle I hadn’t considered:
Of course, once Lucasfilm blesses the remixing, a couple of things happen. One, the resulting remixes aren’t necessarily examples of “fair use”; so long as the mixers follow Lucasfilm guidelines, their mixes are authorized. Two, Star Wars remixes that don’t rely on the authorized clips begin to look a bit less like fair use than they might otherwise; here again, there is a copyright owner that is authorizing parodies. Under a typical four-factor analysis of fair use, avoiding an authorized “market for parodies” appears to cut against the user.That’s a really clever angle — don’t know if it took a lawyer to come up with, or only a lawyer to spot it.
The fair use law makes quite clear that anything that diminishes the value of the original looks less like fair use. Since Lucasfilm/Eyespot eventually plan preroll ads to support their website, parodies that bypass the site will be undercutting Lucasfilm’s business, and thus less likely to be considered “fair use.”
Some are whining that Lucas is tightly controlling the clips with possible censorship (e.g. against Princess Leia as a porn star). But if Lucas didn’t exert some control, then it would lose the ability to go after others who diminished the value of the franchise.
As for complaints that Lucas isn’t sharing advertising proceeds for user-generate content, where is this true? Geocities? Yahoo Groups? Blogger? YouTube? Hotmail? I think everyone knows that “free” on the web means “I don’t pay but others sell ads.”