fair use day

it’s fair use day.

i get asked about fair use a lot. actually, i get asked, “is it illegal to copy a cd for personal use?” a lot. this isn’t specifically covered under fair use, but case law generally says go ahead and make a backup.

but as far as copyright law goes, everything is copyrighted. everything put down in recorded form is protected under u.s. copyright law, including everything on the web, whether or not the creator registered it with the copyright office. that’s right: once you set it down on paper/tape/byte, its copyrighted (you have to register the copyright in order to pursue your legal claims in court, so, catch-22).

however, everyone has a little backdoor through the copyright law called the fair use provision. you should take a moment to familiarize yourself with fair use; i’d suggest stanford libraries’ marvelous site. but if you’re only going to read this post, then you should be familiar with the four factor test for fair use:

1. the purpose and character of your use
2. the nature of the copyrighted work
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market.

what are you doing it for (are you adding value – ‘transforming’ the original work – or just copying), what kind of work is it in the first place (non-fiction is more permissible than fiction, for example), how much are you using (a few seconds of film? a single quote? a whole chapter?), and are you negatively impacting the potential earnings of the content creator?

if you can honestly say you haven’t run afoul of these factors, then your use is most likely fair.

many feel that the copyright laws have run out of bounds in the past 20 years or so, and there are major efforts being undertaken to restore copyright to its former sanity, the most popular/impressive of which is the creative commons initiative. they have a search page that can help you find creative-commons-licensed work which falls outside traditional copyright (and is therefore less restricted for use) at http://search.creativecommons.org/. i personally love flickr’s creative commons pages (http://flickr.com/creativecommons/), because i can play with the images there and not worry about copyright.

there. i’ve done my part for fair use day. happy (fair) using.

0 thoughts on “fair use day”

  1. Just a note to say that your initials are almost a Myers-Briggs personality type unto themselves. Do you have a middle name/confirmation name/other personal desccripter starting with “I” or “E” to complete the mix? This comment is copyrighted (2007). AJW INFJ

  2. i have the same profile as you. mine resolves into a declaration of self: i, n-f, j. i have just about no idea what it means.

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