Min's Blog

Introduction to Fair Use and Copyright Issues

November 30th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Hi everyone!

I am Min and currently a freshman in Harvard. I set up this blog for my freshman seminar’s final project and this is my first post. As copyright issues can get really complicated and confusing and people get paranoid about their intellectual property nowadays, I am going to examine various copyright infringement issues that involve different media within the context of the four factors to discuss if they should belong to the fair use category.

Copyright issues are not just limited to published print work: they extend to a wide range of areas, such as artwork, software and music, which I will talk about in the future posts. According the official definition of copyright in U.S Code title 17, copyright is “a form of protection proved by the laws of the United States to the authors of  ‘original works of authorship'”.  The owner of copyright is given the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform and perform their works. Yet as the technology evolves daily, the definition of the exclusive rights get fuzzy and copyright issues have gone beyond their traditional definitions.  Sometimes it can also get political sensitive. Shepard Fairey’s popular portrait of Obama caused a lot of controversy for using Obama’s image from the AP press without permission. Shepard used a photograph taken by a AP press journalist in which Obama is looking up and turned it into a piece of art with broad strokes of colors that conveys the message of hope and optimism. Its ensued huge popularity among the voters might have contributed to Obama’s win in the 2008 election. Anticipating that the AP press would sue him, Fairey took the preemptive action by suing the AP press first. There are four guidelines to determine if his use is fair use:

1. The purpose and character of the use: is it for commercial use or for non-profit educational purposes?

2. The nature of the copyrighted work: is it transformative enough?

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used from the copyrighted work.

4. The effect on the potential market: does it harm the market for the copyrighted work?

This case gives a new definition for fair use as it raises the crucial question: how creative does the work have to be in order to be considered fair use? The artist argues that his work is tranformative as he only used the outline of Obama from the original photograph and it doesn’t affect the photo’s potential market. The legal battle is still going on right now, but I will not go into much details about this case here, as it is well covered by the media. Instead, I will explore copyright infringement cases that have less coverage base on the aforementioned four guidelines. I will also discuss whether use of disclaimer notice and acknowledgement of sources can prevent users from infringement liabilities. Lastly, I am going to examine how the cases will affect the creativity of which we Americans are so proud.

Blog is an ideal platform for exchanging ideas. Thank you very much for coming to my blog, and I will appreciate it if you leave constructive comments to express your own opinion and tell me which part you agree/disagree with me.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • Mr WordPress // Nov 30th 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  • Battlefield 3 // Jan 3rd 2010 at 3:35 am

    Great read. A Also I love the theme of this site

  • Mark H // Jan 3rd 2010 at 4:19 am

    The law is there, the explanation is there, but still leaves a lot of missing pieces. For one thing, even defining commercial and non commercial opens up a can of worms.

    I’m not saying the post is incomplete, I’m saying the law is

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