YouTube's new Fair Use Protection Program, an early step towards DMCA reform

Today YouTube announced a new program to help its users stand up to bogus copyright threats from content bullies. Under the program YouTube will offer select users, with strong fair use cases, who have a video taken down under the DMCA two options:

  • Option 1: Users can follow the current process of filing a counter notice and have the video put back up worldwide in 10-14 days as required by law.
  • Option 2:  Under the new option, users will be able to keep the video up in the US. Google will also provide a vetted list seasoned copyright litigators and up to one million dollars to help with legal fees if they are sued.

While we wish the program didn’t make users choose between keeping the video up worldwide or just in the US, we understand that much of it is a result of the messy state of international copyright law. And we hope that as the program iterates it will be able to expand its scope and hopefully make some great case law reinforcing the legal consequences of sending a bogus takedown in the process. We also like the idea of having a "demo reel" of fair use examples to help YouTubers learn about fair use. You can see the first class of videos YouTube has selected for their fair use program over on YouTube here.

Although we want to applaud YouTube for its program to help users fight back against bogus DMCA takedowns, there is one giant category of claims that this program won’t help with. That is claims made under YouTube’s ContentID system. That system is also often abused by content owners looking to censor speech or individuals seeking to abuse the system to take revenue from creators. For creators that rely on fair use, YouTube's own internal appeals system is their primary recourse because the legal consquences of abusing the ContentID system are far less clear.  As large content holders gain more leverage over user-generated content sites through the threat of crushing litigation, we’re going to start seeing more systems like ContentID pop up that lack critical user safeguards (including legal consequences for abusing the system) present in the DMCA. We don’t point this out to knock YouTube’s new program but instead as a reminder of how far we have to go to truly reform copyright such that it can no longer serve as a tool for those who seek to stifle speech.

We’ll be watching YouTube’s new program with great interest going forward.  If you have thoughts or questions about YouTube’s new program feel free to reach out to us via our contact form.

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Our 2015 accomplishments!

Whether you’ve joined us as a Student or an Open Internet Defender we're stronger than ever thanks to support from individuals like you!

If you haven't become a Supporter, we need your support more than ever this year. Please consider joining our community of supporters by making a donation and help us continue to fulfill our mission to:

  • Provide free and dramatically reduced fee one-to-one legal services to underserved creators and innovators that need specialized help with Internet, intellectual property, media, and technology law
  • Defend the Open Internet and push for badly needed copyright reform.
  • Create high quality legal educational materials and to educate the next generation of lawyers.

With your support we’ve done this and more in 2015 by:

In 2016, with your support we plan to:

  • Continuing to provide free and dramatically reduced fee one-to-one legal services to  400+ underserved creators and innovators.
  • Releasing our first book aimed at helping creators and entrepreneurs better understand the legal issues they may encounter while innovating and creating.
  • Sponsoring and organizing more than 12 workshops and community events throughout the San Diego region and throughout the United States about digital rights.
  • Working on policy initiatives to encourage the FCC to adopt real Net Neutrality measures.

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Second Annual Giving Tuesday Night Owl Edition!

This Giving Tuesday, December 1, New Media Rights will be running a one-day, 24-hour fundraiser where your donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to $40,000! We need your support more than ever this year. Please pledge an amount to support@newmediarights now, and then donate on December 1 help us leverage our biggest match opportunity ever!

We’ll also be competing with all of the other wonderful programs at California Western School of Law for that $40,000 match on a first come, first matched basis. In order to maximize your impact we are asking donors to give as close as possible to 12:01am PST on December 1st! As an added bonus the first person to donate on December 1st will get a video thank you from the NMR Team!

Need a reminder? Send the dollar amount you would like to pledge to by Monday November 23 and we'll send you a reminder email at 12:01AM on Giving Tuesday! Even if you're not a night owl, your early bird donations can have a huge impact!

Double your impact! Double our reach!

By giving on Giving Tuesday, you can double your impact, and help us to do more great work like the work we did this year. Thanks to your continued support we:

  • Launched our Fair Use App to provide filmmakers and video creators with a practical tool for learning more about copyright law.
  • We helped secure critical exemptions that allow filmmakers to bypass encryption and technical protections measures for purposes of fair use and were a huge part of the historic Open Internet Order!
  • We Assisted on our 1,500th legal matter and served more than 500,000 people this year through the educational resources on our website.
  • We joined coalitions that supported critical protections for military whistleblowers and helped ensure that you can access the educational materials you pay for with your tax dollars.
  • We were approved to provide the New Media Rights Internet and Media Law Clinic with California Western School of Law year round to better train the next generation of lawyer to understand the needs of creators and entrepreneurs.

See a full list of our accomplishments for the year and our exciting plans for next year here!

All the best,
Art Neill, Teri Karobonik, and the New Media Rights team

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2015 DMCA Anti-Circumvention Rulemaking: Significant Victories, but a Broken Process

Every three years the Copyright Office meets to reconsider exemptions to the DMCA Anti-Circumvention provisions. These exemptions are critical to ensuring creators and consumers’ ability to bypass technological protection measures on copyrighted works, allowing them to make fair use of works in a variety of circumstances.  As we did in 2012New Media Rights submitted extensive comments and testimony, working on behalf of creators and consumers to maintain and expand on the exemptions currently in place.

On October 27, the Copyright Office revealed the results of their 2015 Anti-Circumvention Rulemaking. Many of our recommendations were adopted, and we were cited repeatedly in the rulemaking.

Here's the final rule, and here's the Registrar's recommendation citing New Media Rights.

This is usually the part where we say we’re proud to have been a part of making sure these vital exemptions were granted and expanded.  We are proud of our contributions and we’ll highlight those below, but we also need to take amount to keep it real.  The DMCA Anti-circumvention rulemaking is broken.

A broken process

The problem is that every three years law clinics, nonprofits, and consumer groups are made to spend thousands of hours proving all over again the necessity of narrow exemptions simply intended to allow consumers and creators to make fair use of works. The Copyright Office grants some narrow expansions of exemptions, but basically makes small carveouts for a narrow class of fair uses.  All of this effort is required despite Copyright owners offering specious or no evidence about any harm that’s being protected by not providing exemptions.  Yes, you read correctly. Advocates are spending thousands of hours asking the Copyright Office to please make exemptions for a universe of uses that are, but for the DMCA Anti-circumvention provisions, in no way illegal!  As one commentator put it, the narrow exemptions are "like a manicured garden in the middle a Superfund site."

How do we fix this?  Yes could give exemptions more permanent status, and once established put the burden on the side trying to disprove the necessity of the exemption. But a real fix is actually fairly straightforward.  If it’s fair use, it should be exempted from the Anti-Circumvention provisions.  Period. 


Video Reuse Exemptions for DVD, Blu-Ray and Streaming

The Copyright Office renewed and expanded upon the current exemption. The exemptions added Blu-Ray, and now allows for the reuse of video content from DVD’s, Blu-Ray’s and online streaming services for certain types of fair use. New Media Rights specifically argued that non-commercial remix creators should be able circumvent for purposes of making important political and cultural remix videos. The final exemption also allows for circumvention of DVDs by Kindergarten-12th grade educators and students for educational purposes (although the Copyright Office declined to expand that exemption to Blu-Ray’s or online transmissions), and of DVD’s, Blu-Ray’s and online streaming services by college educators and students, multimedia e-book authors, and professionals who have been commissioned to make videos for nonprofit purposes.

Documentary Filmmakers Exemptions

New Media Rights submitted comments and testimony strongly urging the Copyright Office to expand upon the current exemption that allows a documentary filmmaker to circumvent digital protections on DVD’s  and online sources to make fair use, to include broader protections for non-documentary films as well, including all narrative/fictional films arguing fair use. In our comments, supporters including ourselves cited more than 30 non-documentary films that relied heavily on fair use, to illustrate the need for filmmakers everywhere to have these anti-circumvention exceptions, regardless of whether they’re making a documentary or another type of film. While the Copyright Office did expand on documentary filmmakers’ rights to bypass anti-circumvention technologies on Blu-Rays (recognizing the necessity in the industry to have access to somewhat higher quality footage), the Library declined to expand those exemptions to non-documentary films, maintaining a genre distinction that makes using this exemption difficult for the many online video creators a challenge.

Jailbreaking of Smartphones and Tablets

The Copyright Office also renewed and expanded an important exemption we supported that permits smartphone and tablet users to install the software of their choice on their devices.  Tablets were not included in the 2012 rule, but were added this time around in 2015.  This exemption is critical to keep device manufacturers, carriers, and OS makers from limiting access to otherwise legal services and content.

Of course, the Copyright Office’s 2015 rulemaking session covered far more than just the exemptions we covered above. Other highlights include new exemptions allowing circumvention of access restrictions to repair and modify vehicles, archive video games, and even to access medical devices in certain circumstances.  

A big congratulations also goes out to the many other folks who worked on the 2015 DMCA Anti-Circumvention Proceedsings, including The Organization for Transformative Works, the University of California-Irvine Arts & Technology Law Clinic, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Knowledge to name just a few.

For more information about some of the other results of the 2015 rulemaking session, we highly encourage you to check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s coverage here.

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NMR launches law school IP and entrepreneurship clinics list!

As we've written about before there's a major justice gap when it comes to creators and entrepreneurs having access to critical legal services. While we do our best to provide free and low cost legal services, we’re only one organization. That's why we’ve created a national list of law school legal clinics as a resource to creators, entrepreneurs and even other lawyers to help find other legal clinics fighting to fill the justice gap. The clinics on the list typically provide completely free or low cost services depending on if you qualify and they have the capacity to take on new issues. Check out the complete list here.

If you are a professor whose legal clinic is not on this list, please feel free to reach out to us at and we’ll do our best to add your clinic as promptly as possible.


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Do I need a license to use a font?

Fonts can be an essential part of a project.  Graphic designers use creative fonts for logos, software engineers include them in their programs, writers use specific fonts for publications, filmmakers use fonts in rolling credits, and even musicians use cool fonts for marketing their band.  However, using a particular font for your project may not be as simple as you think.

First thing to realize is there is a difference between fonts and typefaces, although people use the two interchangeably. 
Historically, fonts were the actual wooden blocks that were carved out to use for a printing press and the typeface was the artistic letter design carved in the block.  However, in the computer age a font became the code that displays the letters on your computer.  Generally, U.S copyright law doesn’t protect typefaces, but fonts may be protected like computer software or a program.

When deciding on a font to use for your project, you can hire a designer or you can choose an existing font.  However, when choosing an existing font, there are a few things to look out for.


Word Processor Fonts (Restricted by Terms of Use)
Although fonts in software like Microsoft Word may seem like fair game to reuse in your software project, you need to be careful because the company that designed the font may limit the use of the font.  In addition, some companies use 3rd party fonts so read their Terms of Use carefully for any extra restrictions.  For example, Microsoft recommends to first determine whether the font belongs to them or a 3rd party by checking the font’s properties.  If the font belongs to Microsoft, then you are restricted to the Terms of Use supplied with Microsoft Word. If the font belongs to a 3rd party, then you need to go directly to them to get permission to use it commercially. So if you plan on releasing an app using the code for a font you found in Microsoft Word, you’ll need to get written permission to use that specific code from Microsoft. Keep in mind that these restrictions typically refer to the code used to show the font on your screen and not the visual typeface itself, meaning that you do not need to get permission from Microsoft to use documents you typed up in Microsoft Word in a business or commercial setting.

Fonts Purchased Online (Restricted by License Agreement)
Most font websites do not sell fonts outright; rather they are letting you use their font for a specific purpose for a set amount of money.  That means even if you pay to use the font, the license may restrict your intended use.  For example, some websites separate licenses into print, web and software design use.  So if you choose a specific font for print documents you may not be able to use font for your website unless you pay for two separate licenses. These sites often serve as a middleman between the font designer and the end user, so some fonts may be more restrictive. The key is to always read the terms of the license to make sure your use is not restricted.


Openly licensed fonts
Generally you should avoid downloading free fonts from random “free font” websites because some downloads can be corrupt and unstable.   Instead, it’s better to use openly licensed fonts which are generally free or low cost and can be used within the terms of their specific license.  Open source licenses also allow the user to use and modify the code for free which is something that is rarely an option with traditionally licensed font software. That said it’s important to keep in mind that not all open licenses play nicely together, so if you are using multiple pieces of openly licensed software in your project you may want to visit our Open Source License Guide and consult with an experienced open source licensing attorney.  

When you download the open source font you want to check for red flags that indicate whether the font is really open source or proprietary software in disguise. One red flag to watch out for is the absence of a ‘read me’ file because most open source software uses these files to impart crucial licensing and attribution information.  If no ‘read me’ file is attached, you may be able look in the file’s properties for any mention of the creator’s name and any copyright information.  Another red flag to look out for is someone adding additional attribution requirements or other restrictions to an existing license. For example, if the developer uses the GPL to license a font but then requires that if you use the font you cannot release your project using the font commercially that use is not actually openly licensed because the GPL does not allow people to restrict the software in that way.

Also keep in mind that, although many open source fonts are free, you must comply with the terms of the license so pay special care to any attribution requirements!

Here are some websites where you may find open source font software as well as information regarding font licenses: 


Information on Font Licenses

Font Software
Or search “fonts” on

Special thanks to New Media Rights Intern Gabriel Estrada for coming up with the idea for and assisting with this guide!

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New Media Rights attorneys don their fair use Wizard Hats for Whittier’s Distinguished Speaker Series

This October Art Neill and Teri Karobonik delivered a talk entitled “Office of the Fair Use Wizard: Creators, Technology and Fair Use in the Digital Age” as part of The Center for Intellectual Property at Whittier Law School’s Fall Colloquium and Distinguished Speaker Series. The lecture covered the basics of copyright and fair use as well as covering some of the emerging fair use issues of the digital age.

Video of the talk will be posted here as soon as it becomes available.

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NMR at TwitchCon 2015!

The first annual TwitchCon was held this September in San Francisco.  New Media Rights rounded up some of our favorite video game fans for an awesome panel called “Can We Just Play? The Legality of Let's Play Video and Streams.” The panel addressed the basics of copyright and trademark law that Twitch Streamers and Video Creators need to know to keep their videos and streams up. Our thanks go out to our awesome panelists (listed left to right) Angelo Alcid, Art Neill, Jonathan McIntosh and Teri Karobonik.

Missed out on TwitchCon this year? No worries!  Check out the archive of our panel below!

Watch live video from TwitchCon BibleThump Theater on

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New California privacy laws require search warrants for digital information, Smart TV disclosures, and drone restrictions

New Media Rights Executive Director Art Neill recently sat down with San Diego's KPBS to discuss new privacy laws signed by Governor Jerry Brown in California.  The video interview is below, and here's a link to the longer form radio interview.  

The new privacy laws discussed include

1) SB 178 - California's Electronic Communications Privacy Act

This law requires government entities including law enforcement get search warrants for a broad variety digital information, including electronic communications and data on devices (including email, data on social media services, and information on cell phones). The law gives California one of the best digital privacy laws in the country.  There are exceptions for emergency circumstances, and social media services can still give out information voluntarily, but the new law provides clarity to both consumers and law enforcement.

2) AB 1116 - Smart TV disclosures for voice recognition features

In the wake of revelations about Samsung TV's that listen to your living room conversations, California is requiring Smart TV manufacturers to 1) clearly disclose any voice recognition features on a Smart TV, and 2) to not sell any voice recordings collected, or to use them for advertising purposes.  The key limitation on this law is that very narrowly focuses on Smart TV manufacturers. It doesn't cover video game consoles, DVR's, and many other types of devices that connect to a TV (ie Google Chromecast, Apple TV, etc).  In addition, any app that you install on the Smart TV that has a voice recognition feature is not covered by this law.   

3) AB 856 Drone invasions of privacy

This new law takes basic physical trespass law and makes sure that it extends to drones that take photos, sound recordings, video, etc. by invading the airspace of someones property.  Traditionally, physically trespassing on someone's property to take photos, sound recordings, video, etc of a personal or private nature is an invasion of privacy.  In addition, using a high powered telephoto lens or other technology from off the property has also been considered an invasion of privacy.  This law makes sure that using drones to take invasive photos, sound recordings, video that are highly personal and private is also a violation of privacy law.

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