User-Friendly Licensing for a User-Generated World: The Future of the Video-Content Market

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Joanna E. Collins · 15 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 407

Abstract

A picture may say a thousand words, but in today’s artistic culture, video is the true king. User-generated remix and mashup videos have become a central way for people to communicate their ideas, to be a part of popular culture, and to bring life to their own artistic visions. Digital technology and the rise of user-generated Internet platforms have enabled professionals and amateurs alike to participate in the creation of web videos, which often incorporate popular content. But this has led to a growing tension between amateur sampling artists and copyright rightsholders. The current video-content-licensing scheme requires individually negotiated contracts for authorized use of copyrighted material, but amateur artists frequently lack the bargaining power and understanding of copyright law to comply with licensing requirements.

This Note argues that amateur remix and mashup videos have become a staple in our artistic culture, and the video-licensing system needs to evolve to accommodate artists of all levels. Some have advocated for a “sharing economy approach” to copyright, in which rightsholders voluntarily agree to collaborate in “peer-to-peer” marketplaces. While that approach accommodates the needs of amateur artists, it does not fully satisfy content owners’ interest in monetary compensation for the licensing of their original works. In contrast, a collectively managed taxation model, with rates that distinguish between professional and amateur artists, would balance the interests of content owners and sampling artists. It would remove the need for individually negotiated licenses, enable amateur artists to easily experiment with new art forms, and create a viable video-content market. The web video is here to stay, so it is time to turn copyright infringement into profit.