In earlier posts such as Fair Use Resources and Guidelines, issues of copyright laws and fair use guidelines for students and media creators have been addressed on mediateacher.net’s pages. In a recent open letter addressed to YouTube as “pushers of piracy,” the renowned composer and five-time Grammy winner Maria Schneider has written a scathing indictment of the practices of YouTube and current popular perceptions of music and other creative content as fair game for use to the general public. It is particularly striking and inspiring that this letter is coming not from a pop songwriter or performer but from one of the most respected and exceptional American composers of the past few decades — and a woman who leads an orchestra that is one of the finest ensembles of musicians of our time. She writes, “…YouTube has substantially influenced the behavior of hundreds of millions of its users toward infringement, fermenting a veritable pirate orgy. YouTube goes way beyond turning a blind eye to the marauding masses; it actively seduces its users into illegal behavior, and has even managed to make its users believe pirate behavior is beneficial to creators… The vast majority of music on YouTube is uploaded by people with no legal right to do so – users whom YouTube has carefully molded and brainwashed.”
The attitudes Schneider describes in her letter accurately reflect behavior that I observe day in and out in schools: not only do young people not even think twice about downloading music illegally for projects, most do not even consider arriving prepared with music or other audio for their movies at various stages from pre- to post-production unless they are forced to do so. They do what they constantly do to play and acquire music: they go online, search around — primarily on YouTube — and pull up or rip the music that they find. And which in all likelihood has been posted illegally.
I highly recommend reading Schneider’s letter, which provides an excellent resource for classroom discussion and further investigation for mediamakers. It can be quite an eye-opener for 21st century digital citizens, who typically feel very savvy about issues related to the Internet but may not have considered all of the angles and may regularly brush off particular behaviors into the column of “everybody does it.” (And one more thing: check out her album The Thompson Fields. In a career of stellar releases, it is exceptional, a jaw-droppingly beautiful musical statement. It’s a masterpiece. And her Grammy for working on David Bowie’s Blackstar is certainly deserved as well.)