If you haven't seen our video on copyright, it's just a few posts down. At the time we filmed it, I really couldn't find a clear example to use to talk about "fair use."
Fair use is a buzzword often used in libraries and educational settings. This buzzword is often used in a context to make copyright-questionable actions seem not so questionable. Since the actual laws are not clear, any challenges to copyright claimed as fair use must be tested on a case by case basis.
However, today I was looking at the older entries on boingboing.net. (This blog is written by six technology journalists, experts, authors, contributors and editors of major information sources such as Wired, Popular Science, MSNBC, New York Times, the Washington Post, New Scientist, Business 2.0, and so many more.)
On boingboing, they link a New York Times debate between a lawyer of NBC Universal and a professor at Columbia Law School on fair use in the 21st century.
The Lawyer's stance:
"...Fair use is not a “right,” a misconception and misstatement frequently made these days. Fair use permits use of portions of a work under limited circumstances.... Because fairness cannot be reduced to a set of bright line rules, whether a use is fair is determined on a case by case basis.... The Copyright Act sets out a four factor test (although other factors can be considered). The factors include the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the original work, the amount taken from the existing work and the importance of what is taken and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Thus, as a legal matter, a case-by-case analysis remains the standard."
The Professor's take:
"... a simpler principle for fair use: work that adds to the value of the original, as opposed to substituting for the original, is fair use. In my view that’s a principle already behind the traditional lines: no one (well, nearly no one) would watch Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs” as a substitute for “Star Wars”; a book review is no substitute for reading [a book]. They are complements to the original work, not substitutes.... Fan guides like the Harry Potter Lexicon or Lostpedia are not substitutes for reading the book or watching the show.... On the other hand, its obviously not fair use to scan a book and put it online, or distribute copyrighted films using BitTorent."
So, things still aren't 100% clear to the common person, but again, "it's better to be safe than sorry" when it comes to copyright laws.
Have a great weekend!