Content theft?

Owners of intellectual property often spread misinformation about the scope of the rights the law gives them. Various industries have promoted a misleading version of copyright law in which a copyright confers absolute control over a creative work and fair use and other limitations do not exist. “Creative America,” an initiative of big media, is the latest villain. Calling itself a “grassroots organization,” Creative America bills itself as “the entertainment community united against content theft.” Its slick website features a “PSA” on the problem of “content theft.” Content theft is not a legal term. Most of what Creative America is complaining about isn’t “theft” at all but allegations of copyright infringement. (And, not surprisingly, there is no mention by Creative America of limitations on copyrights or circumstances when reproducing or using a copyrighted work is lawful.) Theft is meant to sound more dramatic than infringement. But it’s the wrong way to talk about intellectual property. And insisting on “theft” results in some outright oddities: the first kind of “theft” Creative America identifies in its “Story of Content Theft” is “camcorder theft.” That isn’t what it sounds like, stealing a camcorder, but rather, in Creative American lingo, using a camcorder to record a movie.

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