Friday, November 06, 2020

Getting Cute with Copyright--cover art and movie trailers

 It is generally understood that cover art and other material made to package and promote a product can be shared online.  However, it is also true that these materials are under copyright, creating something of a grey area when--as is usually the case--sharing is not explicitly permitted.  While cover images are shown on a massive scale on sites like Goodreads and book reviews sites, this is done based on the idea that is a reasonable risk, rather than an absolute right.

A similar situation exists with movie trailers. They are promotional materials that work best when they are able to be shared and reshared on platforms other than where they were originally hosted.  But copyright holders do have the discretion to assert their copyright and not allow sharing.  It is probably counter-productive to do so, hence the prevailing norms that sharing without explicit permission is okay--but the option to blanket-prohibit sharing is available and reasonable to use in some cases.

What might be legal but is not reasonable is to withhold permission to share copyrighted promotional material only when the review is critical or negative.  And this is exactly what Netflix is doing by reporting posts of the trailer for the controversial movie "Cuties' only when the accompanying comments are negative.

This is just like authors asserting copyright over their cover art, but only when it is shown on a negative review (as I have experienced multiple times).  It is not asserting rights over intellectual property, it is weaponizing those rights to suppress discussion for and between consumers of the product.  It disrupts the current normals of use without permission, and not for any good reason. As is so often the case, a large company is doing that which is legal with complete disregard for that which is good or right.

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