On YouTube, there are two ways you can achieve fame — once when your video goes up on the site; and the other when your video is taken down. And so, we have the curious case of the several missing Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven videos featuring the Brit rock group's performance at the much-talked about reunion concert on December 10 in London.
You've got to be someone like the Baptist minister who, in 1982, claimed that certain parts of Stairway to Heaven when played backward are an invocation to Satan, to not like one of the world's most played rock songs or its fans.
Unfortunately, the species exists, and an anti-piracy firm working on behalf of Warner Music alerted YouTube to activate its anti-piracy software to delete all fan videos from the concert. The trouble was, Warner Music never told them to get the videos removed (what's wrong with a little publicity, after all?). So, does Grayzone, the anti-piracy firm in question, really hate the song, or were they trying to be more loyal than the king?
Perhaps the latter. Anyway, fan furore followed, and two days later, the videos were back on the site. Even Grayzone apologised.
Which brings us to a bigger question: to what extent should copyright infringement be penalised? For instance, in the case of a concert, an amateur upload with poor video and even poorer audio will have possibly no impact on sales when the concert DVD is released. Besides, fans go to concerts to see their idols perform, not just to hear the songs, and the more the concert videos making the rounds, the greater the chance that the next edition is sold out. Both the fans and the recording studio win.
The Recording Industry Association of America made a laughing stock of itself earlier this year by winning a $2.2 lakh suit against a middle-aged mother for downloading songs through peer-to-peer software. Viacom, MTV's parent company has slapped a $1 billion copyright infringement suit on Google (YouTube's parent) for allowing users to upload videos of MTV shows without authorisation. As technology blogger Alexander Wolfe says: "The record industry would be more effective in its fight if it did a better job of picking its battle. Trust me, kids are not dissuaded from using LimeWire because the RIAA won $220,000 from some Minnesota mom."
See you in jail for picking up that quote?