arts, technology

Electric Slide part 2

The plot thickens! Richard Silver, the man who claims to own the silly line dance known as the electric slide is now being sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of Kyle Machulis. Kyle had uploaded a video onto youTube where, among other things, folks do the electric slide for about ten seconds. Silver said they were doing it wrong and infringing his copyright, so issued a DMCA takedown notice. The EFF is now suing Silver for violating Machulis’ right to free speech as a videographer.

While this seems like it’s just another part in a story that keeps getting more and more ridiculous it is actually pretty important. It isn’t important because the electric slide is a dance that we all need rights to (I would gladly wave that right if we can abolish the dance step from all history), but because the precedent that will be set. This is something that needs attention. Seriously. The issue is fair use, which is the issue that dominates most discussions about DMCA abuses. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is terribly problematic, mostly in that it hinders fair use, and (even more absurdly) free speech. Kudos to the EFF for taking on the issue, I’m proud to have donated to a organization dedicated to ensuring people’s rights extend into our current and future technologies. Without people like the EFF the electric slide could soon refer not to the dance, but to describe the trend of our digital rights.

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Look What That Wacky DMCA is Doing Now!

A little while back I mentioned that you can’t copyright an art form, but you can copyright a performance… here is a great example of how that is being used.

If you have you ever been to a wedding where someone danced the “Electric Slide” and you videotaped it Ric Silver might have a lawsuit waiting for you. That is right, this knuckle head is using the mother of all bad ideas, the DMCA, to stop just about anyone from doing the Electric Slide on video, from teaching it, or even listing the moves without his permission.

Silver also claims to have come up with breakdancing and The Robot (seriously, look at the bottom of his webpage!), so you kids better watch out, especially if you’d like to show your stuff online at a place like YouTube. CNet recently reported Silver has issued DMCA powered take down notices for just about every video that has the Electric Slide performed in it on YouTube. It seems as if he’s scoured the entire planet for footage of his silly dance suing at will to try and leech every penny possible from folks. CNet reports:

Indeed, Richard Silver, who filed the copyright for the Electric Slide in 2004, said on one of his Web pages that the DeGeneres Show had been putting up a legal fight as he tried to get compensation for a segment that aired in February 2006 in which actress Teri Hatcher and other dancers performed the popular wedding shuffle.

But this isn’t about a dance that most people don’t care about. It’s about someone trying to squeeze pennies out of others by enforcing copyright. The world is rapidly changing into a place where “content creators” can own and control just about anything, and that is scary.

The most insightful part of Wikipedia’s entry on the Electric Slide is the talk page. It is Ric Silver at his best insulting people and making several threats there to sue folks for things like slander and defamation of character and using the timeless catchphrase, “We’ll be seeing you in court.”

The question has to be asked, is this the direction we really want things to go? A place where we can’t dance unless a bonehead like Silver gives us the okay? Will America be the home to some sort of bizarro version of the Footloose town, where kids can’t dance or Ric Silver will get their parents house?

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