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I made an illegal video

Copyright laws prevent parents videoing their offsprings' school plays. Where has sense and reason gone?

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I have two small children and of course I like to see them perform in children's concerts, ballets and plays. And like any proud dad, I like to record the occasion in photographs and on video. Indeed, it seems that every other person in the audience has a video focused permanently on the stage - I once saw someone with a tripod even.

But at this year's school play, I was disappointed when my daughter brought the flyer home and it had a prominent note saying that video recording would not be allowed. No explanation.

My first thought was that the school was concerned about pedophiles, or more likely about potential lawsuits and damages should anyone feel their child's privacy had been breached by recording. If this had been the case, then I would have been angry indeed that I could be branded a potential pedophile just because I have a video camera. And the thought that banning video cameras is going to eliminate pedophilia is simply ludicrous.

But I knew the school's head teacher and board of governors were more sensible than that so I thought some more. Aha! It's because they want to sell more copies of the official video! I have seen this happen before. The trouble with this is that you go to these events to see your own child. Everyone else is just background. But the official videographer has to try and keep everyone happy, with the result that no-one is really satisfied with the tape or DVD.

Eventually I actually did find out why video cameras were banned - copyright! Apparently the publishers of the musical play concerned had made it plain that video recording would be a breach of copyright and therefore illegal.

And yes, the sad fact is that they have the right to do this. It's something as innocent and enjoyable as a school play and they bring down the heavy hand of copyright law to prevent people taking the pleasure they deserve from it.

In fact this applies to all such productions, whether or not a statement on copyright is made. Anyone making a recording with a video camera without specific authorization from the publisher is breaking the law, and could be taken to court and damages applied.

There is an old saying that the law is an ass. Usually 'ass' is taken as a synonym for donkey. In this case it's the first three letters of something more appropriate.

By the way, my digital camera works like a video too, so no-one noticed and I got my recording. I'm still waiting for the writ to come through.

By David Mellor Monday January 31, 2005
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