The Copyright Police Catch Up With ‘Hung Up’

Well, I’ve finally run afoul of the copyright police. More precisely, two videos I had uploaded to YouTube–some six years ago–have been taken down. Last night, as I searched for them repeatedly, I wondered what might have happened to them. This morning, as I thought about their content, I realized why they might have got the copyright chop: they both featured the video for Madonna’s ‘Hung Up.’

Back in 2006, I moved to my current location in Brooklyn, Ditmas Park, from Fort Greene. Our move was onerous, as most moves are, but some its pain was eased a bit by inviting over my good friend and Decoding Liberation co-author, Scott Dexter, for a  beer-infused packing session. As the night wore on, and as my possessions miraculously found their way into the boxes scattered all over my apartment, we took ever-longer breaks for food and liquid sustenance. Finally, worn down by the tedium of packing, we called it a day (or night), and took refuge in VJ’ing YouTube videos. Among them: Madonna’s ‘Hung Up,’ which features ample footage of that lady’s dancing prowess.

As Scott watched the video, inspiration struck: why not provide a little musical accompaniment? The instrument he picked–yes, he just happened to be carrying it around–was the Vietnamese lip lute, the Đàn môi. We played the video several times as Scott played the Đàn môi, picking up the beat, strumming brilliantly against his lips. If I may say so myself, it was a virtuoso performance, adding a quirky twang to ‘Hung Up’s pop and dance sensibility. At one point, I turned on my digital camera and shot some video of Scott playing, panning around the room to show the packed boxes, my desktop computer playing ‘Hung Up,’ and finally, on myself. Later, my wife shot some video with similar footage. Yes, it was all pretty juvenile, but that’s how most home videos go.

We ended up with two short clips of Scott on the Đàn môi playing along with ‘Hung Up’.  They were pleasant mementos of time spent with a good friend; we decided to put them up on YouTube to share them with friends. Yes, there was some goofy mugging for the camera; there was a musician showing me how skilled he was; there was a little bit of Madonna. A bit of a lark, as it were.  I sent the links to a few folks, and in the years that followed would show the videos off once in a while. I don’t think they were viewed more than a hundred times in all.

Technically, I suppose they were ‘derivative works‘ of ‘Hung Up,’ and as such, my use was an infringement. (I’m not sure I’d have a fair-use defense.) But it still all seems a little silly: we were being Madonna fans, and the videos showcase Scott’s performance more than anything else. Now, they are gone. The world of entertainment isn’t exactly poorer as a result of these two amateur efforts disappearing from YouTube, but the pettiness of it all is a little depressing

5 thoughts on “The Copyright Police Catch Up With ‘Hung Up’

    1. Ginger:

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t understand YT’s policy either – my video was up for years before it got taken down. And there is plenty of other material on there that you would think is infringing. More to the point, my video should have been welcomed by the copyright holder!

  1. I created a marketing video for the company I work for now using a public domain copy of Robert Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”

    Several weeks later I received notice that someone had disputed the copyright on it, so I had to appeal through Youtube and send them a specific link to the website where it was listed as a public domain work. It was restored, but it irritates me that this system they have in place to report copyright violations on Youtube can be abused.

    1. Lowestofthekeys:

      Thanks for the comment. I agree – the system in place requires ‘content cops’ to jump in response to even the most egregiously misplaced complaints.

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