Creativity and Free Culture

This morning started out in such a great way.  I’m on a mailing list at the Media Lab called “awesome”, and this morning Kasia Hayden sent around a link to this incredible piece of creative work:

It’s a marriage proposal presented as a “live lip-dub” of Bruno Mars’ “Marry You“.  Basically a live music video, staged on a quiet street in Portlandia, from the back of a slowly moving car. I watched probably 10 times today and it still brings a big smile to my face.  It’s an incredible, touching, creative work, pulled together by a large cast of friends & family.  It’s really something.  And in the past few days, it’s been viewed a combined 2,000,000 times on youtube and vimeo.

Of course, this made be think of copyright.  First, I realized that part of what I liked so much about the video was the large-group choreography in the streets.  It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what.  Then I remembered: the awesome scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris sings “Twist and Shout” on a parade float in downtown Chicago and everyone in the city starts dancing.  This part is where it gets really good (it should start at the right place, but if it doesn’t, skip to 2:25):

This raised two issues for me:

  1. Is the wedding proposal fair use under US copyright law?  Or is it infringing?
    I’m not an expert on this, but my read is that it’s not fair use and therefor is infringing.  Who knows if the creators cleared the rights to the song, probably not.  But this is a) such awesome creative work and b) nothing but positive towards the brand and market awareness for the song itself.  Even if you don’t believe this should count as fair use, it’s the kind of thing where a more accessible / understandable rights clearing & licensing system would really make things easier and foster more creativity like this.
  2. I’m pretty sure the Ferris Bueller clip is infringing.
    The first clip I found of the Twist & Shout scene was here, but the actual Youtube clip had been killed, serving this notice:

    I was able to find the clip I included above, but I assume that might disappear at some point as well.  Which is unfortunate, because as matter of culture, it’s really helpful to link to clips like this.  I don’t know if there would be a reasonable way to provide the raw material (the way that youtube does, sort of) which would, under current law, facilitate fair use while limiting non-fair use.

Regardless, this video made my morning, and reminded me of something that Eben Moglen said last week at #f2c:

“The way innovation really happens is that you provide young people with opportunities to create on an infrastructure which allows them to hack the real world and share the results”

Here’s to that.

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