The last post certainly seemed to raise the ire of some readers, and I was told there was “nothing wrong with working for Walmart” among other things. I’m not sure the Walmart workers agree, and they would almost certainly say there was something wrong with the low wages, split shifts, poor benefits, etc. Regardless, it’s a perfect example of people who don’t get paid much and who have almost no control over their work, and they have to wear special clothes and badges. If you want librarians to have the equivalent status and autonomy of Walmart clerks, fine, but you can leave me out of it.
Now on to happier news. There was a brief triumph of libraries and common sense over a large corporation trying to stifle creativity last week. You don’t see that often, so it’s worth a kudos.
Infodocket links to the relevant articles about Abbe Klebanoff, a public librarian in Pennsylvania, taking on Sony and winning thanks to some positive news coverage. Sony, the corporation that once fought for more open copyright interpretations and won, now celebrates that victory by harassing public libraries.
Klebanoff had gotten some of the teen library users to create a video called Read It, sung to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Beat It.
I’m happy to say that the video doesn’t annoy me. There are no dancing librarians, just teens dancing and singing in the library and apparently enjoying themselves. However, the singing makes the library very noisy, so they probably do their reading elsewhere.
It did annoy Sony, however, which claimed that it was a violation of copyright and asked YouTube to remove it, despite their being numerous parodies of Beat It on YouTube. Supposedly, this video wasn’t a parody, but a “message video,” since parodies are generally allowed under copyright law and “message videos” aren’t.
Unless…Sony doesn’t like the message they’re sending to the world. Instead of caving to Sony’s demands, the librarian took her case to the public via local news and then Good Morning America. It’s hard not to smile at this and think about some poor middle managers scrambling to fix the PR mess:
I spoke to Debra Lau Whelan from the National Coalition Against Censorship, who offered support, the local public radio station, WHYY, which did an on air and web piece.
Sony was starting to feel the pressure.
Then my director received a call from the national morning show, Good Morning America. They loved the story. It was David vs. Goliath. My teens were there, my director was eloquent and I was passionate.
Half way through the interview, the local GMA producer who was interviewing us received word that Sony unblocked the video at around 5 p.m. Sony never contacted me directly. But I learned that Sony would make an exception because of the video’s positive message about reading!! Well, Halleluiah!
Half way through the interview! I love it. The claim that they allowed it because of the “positive message about reading” was a good attempt at saving face, since everyone including Sony must know that the real message was becoming, “Sony tries to crush a public library with bogus claims of copyright infringement.”
The WHYY article above mentioned the other parodies and said, “None have permission — aside from Mr. Yankovic, of course, who paid to parody “Beat It.”” It turns out that’s not true.
From the FAQ at Weird Al’s website:
Al does get permission from the original writers of the songs that he parodies. While the law supports his ability to parody without permission, he feels it’s important to maintain the relationships that he’s built with artists and writers over the years. Plus, Al wants to make sure that he gets his songwriter credit (as writer of new lyrics) as well as his rightful share of the royalties.
So he doesn’t pay, and he only asks permission to “maintain relationships” in the music community. A public library in Pennsylvania is unlikely to be maintaining any relationships with Michael Jackson at this point, so even asking permission would be pointless.
Next, they should make a library parody of Thriller, just to annoy Sony. Feel free to use these lyrics for the chorus:
‘Cause this is reading, reading night
And no one’s going to stop you from reading all you like.
You know it’s reading, reading night.
You’re fighting off the sleep to find the killer in this thriller tonight.