Copyright protection is not Gangnam Style.
The most liked video in YouTube’s history, “Gangnam Style” by South Korean pop star Psy, has been given away to the masses.*
First of all, yes, that is officially the most liked video on YouTube. What’s not to like? It’s catchy, funny, and weird, with an easy-to-do signature dance. It’s also endlessly remixable, which is exactly what Psy (real name Park Jae-Sang) was banking on when he waived his copyright on the song. It’s one thing to have a viral video. It’s another thing to give the Internet free reign to do whatever they want with it.
Let’s face it. This is the Internet we’re talking about. People were going to do whatever they want anyways. It just means that EMI or Warner Bros. or whoever won’t be scouring YouTube trying to stamp out offending videos. So no one needs to worry about this familiar sight:
I don’t know if we’ve had a better example of “musician gets the Internet” since Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails tried out the “pay what you feel like” model. (NIN’s Trent Reznor also released the album The Slip under a Creative Commons license. That’s the same license as most of the content on Wikipedia. There are different forms, but in short, it’s permission to use the songs freely as long as you give an attribution to the original source.)
Psy’s decision takes it to the next level. Not because his waived copyright is radically different from NIN’s embrace of Creative Commons, but because this is a different sort of song. Both Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails proved that a band with a deeply ingrained, deeply loyal fanbase would pay because they valued the music. Psy proved that a one-hit wonder (as far as people in the U.S. are concerned that is; this is actually off his sixth album) can hit it big by giving it away for free.
At this point, it should become increasingly clear to people in the entertainment industry that clutching your song, movie, TV show, or whatever tightly to your chest and screaming “IT’S MINE! IT’S MINE!” isn’t going to get you anywhere. If people are enjoying the stuff you’re making, let them enjoy it any which way they want.
*The Guardian seems to be the only source reporting that the copyright has been waived. Even if this is slightly exaggerated, it is clear that Psy is actively encouraging the type of user-generated remixes and tributes that most record labels would try to stamp out.