Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ally ASL wins one on the "fair use" front

"The problem is that the various music groups hire zombies and trained monkeys who scour the Internet searching for any use of their licensed material regardless of the context or purpose."
This is an attention-grabbing comment by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorney Cindy Cohn in a Houston Press music blog story. I didn't know that zombies and trained monkeys were scouring the Internet. More about that later...

More importantly, the article focused on Allyson "Ally ASL" Townsend. Using American Sign Language, she interprets popular songs on YouTube videos. I say "interprets" because sign language is more than translation. It's a language unto itself. Anyone who has seen signers at poetry readings and music performances knows what I'm speaking about. Body language and facial gestures are part of it. You can have a demonstrative signer or a laid-back one. You also can have one that censors words or takes other liberties with the language. I am told that language interpreters do this on a regular basis. They have to understand idioms and slang and tone of voice. They try to incorporate all that in their interpretation.

So is Ally ASL translating the songs? Interpreting? Using them fairly or unfairly?

The EFF and Warner and Universal and YouTube all agreed that this was fair use. She is performing a service for the deaf. She has quite a few fans. All interested parties say, "Rock on, Ally ASL."

That's a good thing.

Now back to zombies and trained monkeys. I don't know what they are. I am assuming that record companies have search bots called zombies and trained monkeys that troll the Internet looking for people illegally downloading copyrighted material. But I can't rule out Warner Music actually using actual trained monkeys for this task. Not sure about zombies, but you never know about these music companies.

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