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The Online Censorship Machine Is Revving Up: Here Are a Few Lessons Learned

About a week ago, I did my usual check-in with Rick Beato’s channel on YouTube to see what new videos he had in store for me. I’m a former working musician, and one who supplemented my income by teaching music, so I was easily sold on Beato’s combination of fun music-related videos like “Top 20 Greatest Rock Guitar Sounds” and in-the-weeds educational videos on music theory. His channel is one of many on YouTube that offer music education, cultural preservation, and creative ways to bring great music to wider audiences. So, needless to say, I was less-than-thrilled to see that he had just live streamed a rant against a huge uptick of efforts to block his videos and those by other creators who also rely on using musical elements to create new content. These copyright strikes had been targeting many of these creators’ most successful videos, which often had been around for years and had attracted big audiences — some with over a million views. One of the impacted videos was Beato’s 20-minute piece on the history of rock guitar, which was taken down for using just 10 seconds of a live, improvised guitar solo by Ozzy Osbourne’s former guitar player, Randy Rhoads. One of Paul Davids’s videos was blocked for playing one chord (Dsus2 for those music geeks following along) in a guitar lesson video. Even in the squishy world of fair use, these seem as close to slam dunk examples of fair use as you can get.

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Copyright, Props, and Armor Replicas: “Yer a Statue, Harry”

Cosplay encompasses a lot of elements beyond the clothing covering your body. Armor, decorative flourishes, and props all fall under a different (and, mercifully, clearer) legal regime than clothing.

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Copyright and Cosplay: Working With an Awkward Fit

One of the questions about copyright that comes up most often at fan conventions is whether or not cosplay is “legal.” It’s a good question, but it gets into some of the murkiest areas of copyright law.

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Copyright for Meme-Makers

So you have a popular Instagram account on which you post original memes for mass consumption and potential monetization. Everything is going great: you’re racking up thousands of followers per day, each post getting hundreds of thousands of likes—life is good. You have managed to create a career for yourself just by being Very Online and humorous, and we are all jealous of you. Good job.

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On Ajit Pai, Fair Use, and “Harlem Shake”

The policy sphere has its knickers in a knot over Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s meme-filled video collaboration with The Daily Caller. In the video, Chairman Pai defends his decision to repeal net neutrality protections by enumerating the things folks can still do on the internet.

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