Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fair Use

Last week was Fair Use Week. Not a few people used the occasion to suggest their own, somewhat wishful, opinions of what Fair Use is (or ought to be).

Much as I enjoy very long and convoluted sentences containing parenthetical clauses, I enjoy ellipses even more. Here is a simplified version of the Fair Use law:
".... the fair use of a copyrighted work ....for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."

"In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include--
1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial  nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
2) the nature of the copyrighted work,
3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."
The full wording can be found here:

Other links to Government information about Fair Use are here ....    and here ....

The excellent, copyright-friendly blog "Illusion Of More"  critiqued a Fair Use Week video that may have taken the notion of allowable parody (as Fair Use) beyond what ought to be allowable.

To be Fair Use, a parody must "comment" on the original work. Using video clips of a copyrighted movie song and simply changing the lyrics may not be Fair Use, especially if the replacement words have nothing to do with the spirit or meaning of the original work.

You may well wonder, as I did, what is the difference between the use of Disney's "Let It Go" (as discussed in the "Fair Use Isn't Dare Use" article) and Jib-Jab's use of the Woodie Guthrie lyrics of "The Land Is Your Land" as the sound track to a political cartoon.

A discussion of the latter is here:

As the above-mentioned blog states, "The contents of this site are not intended and should not be taken for legal advice."

It's an E.F.F. blog, and the fine print explains that it is an EXPLORATION of issues RELATED to copyright and fair use "in our digital culture". (The emphasis is mine.)

Apparently, Jib-Jab was sued and counter-sued, and won. And they are still at it:

Illusion of More, in their article "Celebrate Fair Use Don't Misunderstand" makes what is IMHO the excellent point that "the narrative of the copyright 'debate' today is partly driven by predatory and wealthy tech enterprises, seeking to exploit every weakness in a legal framework that never anticipated the scale, volume, or diversity of infringement that would become possible in the digital market."

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

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