If you’re looking for some perspectives on copyright and fair use that are a little “closer to home”, the former director of the University Press at Penn State has written on these topics extensively for the past 30 years. His topics include issues such as library photocopying, the transformative aspect of fair use, copyright in China, Google, and other current news stories.
So if you’re looking for a long-term perspective on intellectual property, you may want to check our Sandy’s work:
I’ve had a few discussions with people around Penn State about the new copyright ruling regarding circumventing copy protection to access video clips so they could be used in new video works. It’s really complex since it involves copyright law, fair use, the TEACH Act, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Becky Albitz sketched out a diagram to help navigate these issues and then our artist, Dave Stong, turned it into a nice diagram. So here is the end result – I hope you find it useful. Click below to download it.
The purpose of Fair Use is really to give people a way of getting around copyright in limited and reasonable cases that serve the public good, such as reporting the news. Fair Use is not a hard and fast set of rules. It’s defined by needs, intentions, existing practice, case law (court rulings), reasonable uses, and other fuzzy factors. For example, there is no hard and fast rule dictating “you can use five minutes of a copyrighted movie for non-profit purposes.” People assume that those rules exist, but they don’t.
Now enter the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). One thing that was pretty clear from the DMCA: it is illegal to break the Content Scrambling System that is on most commercial DVDs. So if you own a DVD at home and want to make a digital copy to put on your iPad and take on a trip, you can’t legally do it if the DVD is encrypted. [Some companies are adding a “digital download” or “electronic copy” included as part of purchasing the DVD. There are also ways around this like recording a television that is playing a DVD, but there is usually significant loss in the audio and video quality and it’s a time consuming process.]
Got all that so far? Even what I stated above is an oversimplification, but you should get the gist: Fair Use guidelines say that you can use video clips for purposes such as education, criticism, and parody. But you can’t get those clips from DVDs since that would involve breaking the DVD encryption.
Those rules changed on July 28. According to the new rules, people can circumvent DVD encryption for the purpose of incorporating “short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment” as long as there is no other reasonable way to get the video. Specifically, it mentions educational uses by college and university faculty, film and media students, documentary film-making, and non-commercial videos.
It appears that a non-film student could use video clips, as long as they are non-commercial. They also have to become part of a new work – so you aren’t allowed to take a video clip and just post it online. If you make that video clip part of another video that talks about the first, you should be in good shape. What if you embed that video clip in your blog and write about the clip? Is that a new work? Good question. I don’t have an answer. They may mean a new video work, but that’s not specified.
And what does “short portion” mean? This is where that Fair Use fuzziness comes into play again. My rule is the same that I use for writing: only take what you really need and make sure everyone gets credit for their work.
[To be fair, the ruling also included decisions that will affect the cell phone market, eBook text-to-speech functions, and software testing. You may want to read it yourself. It’s pretty short and understandable.]
There is a lot of interest in this new ruling and what it means for higher education. For other perspectives on the decision, you may want to check out the following:
I’ve always felt that it isn’t enough to tell people not to illegally download music and video media. If you really want to curb that kind of illegal behavior, you have to provide reasonable alternatives that give people what they want – not to mention getting people to avoid installing some of the peer-to-peer sharing software than is often bundled with security-compromising malware.
So Educause compiled a comprehensive list of sites that you can use to legally download or stream audio and video content. Personally, I love Netflix’s streaming service and I know a lot of people who are using Hulu to catch up on their favorite TV programs. Some of these are commercial products and some are free (normally supported by ad revenue). So have a look around and pick the one that has the right combination of content, convenience, quality, and subscription model that fits your needs.
This mashup of dozens of Disney cartoons explains the very basic principles of copyright and fair use. Fair warning: the opinions expressed in this video favor the public domain over copyright laws and companies who are profit-driven. The video itself is an interesting case study of fair use. The video wasn’t produced by Disney and I seriously doubt that the creators got Disney’s permission to use these clips. However, in my non-legal opinion, this is a transformative work. It doesn’t compete with the original work and it is educational, a critical commentary, and a parody at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to be sitting in a court room across from Disney lawyers and have to defend the legality of this video. But personally, I think it is brilliant.
At the 2008 Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium, Lawrence Lessig (law professor, author, and founder of Creative Commons) came to Penn State to give his keynote presentation. He talked for about 45 minutes about current interpretation of copyright law, organizations like the RIAA and MPAA, examples of remixed media, and alternative licenses.
In the third video in this series, Zack talks about how the RIAA lawsuit got him involved with people who are examining the strict interpretation of copyright law, share-friendly licensing (like Creative Commons and open source licensing), remix culture, how digital natives use media. This video was found as part of the Berkman Center blog at Harvard Law.
In the second film in this series, Zack McCune, who was sued by the RIAA for downloading music, talks about his reaction to the lawsuit. He has done some thinking about what he had been doing and has an interesting perspective on what he had done and what the RIAA is doing to consumers. This video is part of Harvard Law’s Berkman Center that is studying things like the intersection between Digital Natives, intellectual property, and copyright law.
In this first video in a three-part series, Zack McCune talks about how he was identified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as illegally sharing their music through a peer-to-peer network system. Zack and other students were hit with a lawsuit from the RIAA. We found this video on a blog at Harvard Law. Check it out.