Happy Birthday isn't just a song, it was adopted as a cultural meme to focus attention on the one person in the room that has reached another year or milestone. My Girl isn't just a song by The Temptations to me, it is a cultural marker of the music, the attitudes and my world circa the 1960s.
It is on of my favorite songs. Possessive noun. Dr. Who, fishnet pantyhose,bleaching cremes, She-Hulk all have a life beyond their intended purpose. And if I wanted to create a video commenting on politics today using the aforementioned content I have the right to do so.
For now anyway before it gets stripped from my hands. There is a good non-skeezy reasons for folks using other people's content. One of those reasons is called inspiration.
Kirby Ferguson has a web site called Everything is A Remix. The site supports his web series exploring the how and why we use copyrighted and historical content. I have a smaller version of the first video. You should go to his site where you can see it in full size glory.
There are ways to do this correctly. Most of use are trying to figure that out. The music and entertainment industry is vigorously trying to keep folks on lock down. There is stuff coming down the pike that could potentially criminalize people linking to copyrighted content.
Don't think that one is gonna get too far. There is no prison big enough to hold every single user on the Internet.
In addition to the web series on Kirby's site there are other public and commercial examples of remix culture and creative channeling. You will be surprised on just how much content is used over and over again in homage, idea modification and bending content to fit a new time and place.
- EFF Fair Use FAQ and Ansersers
- Copyright Law via U.S. Copyright Office - in bite size form that you can download as a PDF
- Stanford University Page About the Public Domain