"Here Comes Another Bubble," the charmingly derivative video by the Richter Scales which satirizes Web 2.0 in the style (and to the tune) of Bill Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," is gone from YouTube. The reason? A copyright claim by an unspecified third party. One possibility: Sony BMG, the record company which owns Columbia, Joel's label; lawyers there might take issue with the use of Joel's composition. YouTube and Sony BMG struck a deal last year, though, so that seems unlikely. Another possibility: Lane Hartwell, the photographer whose photo of yours truly was used, uncredited, by the Richter Scales. Hartwell posted about the incident on Flickr. I sort of wonder if this was all my fault — and not just because I was in the video.
Here's why: In a conversation with Hartwell last week about the photo, I'd asked if she'd considered taking up her copyright claim with YouTube, where the video was hosted. I called Hartwell today to ask if she had, indeed filed a DMCA takedown request with YouTube, but didn't get an answer.
From the tone of her Flickr post, though, it's unlikely Hartwell was very satisfied by the Richter Scales' response, which suggested that it was simply too difficult to credit everyone whose work they incorporated into the video. In an interview with Kara Swisher, Richter Scales singer Tom Shields defends the video as engaging in fair use.
I'm not a lawyer, but I've heard plenty of lawyers say that fair use is a murky and difficult area of copyright law. The role of photo credits in copyright law is likewise not entirely clear to me. Giving credit where credit's due simply strikes me as the polite thing to do. And surely not that difficult.
I suspect that the members of Richter Scales were simply lazy. The photo Hartwell took of me is the first search result for me in Google Images. It's not particularly apt, either; I was working at Business 2.0 when she photographed me. On top of that, it makes me look even more jowly than I am.
But enough about me. The issue here is credit, and whether it's hard to give. I've reposted the video above for the sole purpose of discussing the works that went into it. Please view it, and if you recognize a copyrighted photograph whose author deserves credit, please name him or her in the comments. I'll start: The photograph Hartwell took of me was originally published on Epicenter. The iconic photograph of Michael Arrington smoking a cigar was taken by Ramona Rosales for Business 2.0. Those two credits only took a few minutes to identify and write. How hard could it be to fill in the rest?