It's Fair Use Week 2018 this week, but every week
is Fair Use Week for New Media Rights
, because everyday we fight for artists and innovators against legal bullies who don’t respect fair use.
Fair use is the vehicle millions of individuals use to exercise their freedom of expression every day. That's why this week, we'll be highlighting why fair use is important to creators and what New Media Rights is doing and has done to support it.
WHAT IS FAIR USE?
Fair use allows creators, in limited circumstances,to use other people's copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright owners
So why is this so important?
Free speech, creativity, and our economy all require strong limits on copyright holders. Otherwise political, educational, and cultural discourse can be controlled by copyright owners and "licensed" by them to the highest bidder.
If you read this closely, you’ll notice that copyright law wasn’t created soley ensure the owners of creative works make money. Instead, the Founding Fathers understood that the fundamental goal of copyright law is that the public benefit from access to creative work. They wanted would-be creators to have an incentive to create, but they also knew that access to works was critical to provide societal benefits of artistic and scientific expression. So they included a way to balance those two things in the Constitution: bestowing Congress with the power to grant creators the exclusive right to control their creation, with exceptions, for a limited period of time. And when that period expired, the public could legally copy or use that work for any purpose. Reflecting on copyright law’s benevolent purpose, the Supreme Court summarized it in one great little phrase: “[Copyright law exists to] stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good.” Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975).
Although modern justifications for copyright
may differ, U.S. copyright laws are meant for the public benefit as much as private benefit, and fair use is the safety value that allows science and culture to progress while still allowing creators to make money off of and maintain control over their art.
Fair use allows many industries, including movies, music, and the Internet, to flourish. For example, Fair use is the
reason that search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo
can exist. Looking at some examples of how many of us rely on fair use in our daily lives shows what an indispensable part of America’s economy and culture fair use is. From pop culture criticism, to video game and film reviews, political advertisements, news, documentaries, memes and more, fair use is there everyday allowing us to have cultural and political discussions.
WHY IS FAIR USE WORTH PROTECTING?
Copyright gives copyright holders control over who can and can't reuse their work. This covers alot of reuses, and now lasts for life plus 70 years of the author (note it was 14 years at the founding of the United States). Unfortunately, some copyright holders want to overreach and control any use of their work, including who can discuss and criticize their work.
To attack artists relying on fair use, some copyright holders threaten lawsuits with excessive "statutory damages" and litigation to intimidate artists who make legitimate fair uses of a work. Artists faced with the choice between "being sued" or taking down their work will simply take down their work because they can't afford $300+/hour for a lawyer to defend them. This doesn't stop at just artists. Journalists, tech startups, documentarians all have their self-expression chilled or technological innovation stifled because it's not worth the risk of millions or billions of dollars in damages, even when the copyright holder's threat is bogus or "gray area" at best.
We've seen how easy it is to bully filmmakers, artists, and journalists attempting to rely on fair use...
We helped remix artist Jonathan McIntosh
get his amazing 'Buffy Versus Edward' remix back up after it was repeatedly taken down. We also helped the Media Literacy Project
stand up to a bogus copyright claim from a third party. We even helped the Lansdowne Library Teen Advisory Board
get a group of middle school kids' Beat It parody video unmuted after it was disabled for the second time through YouTube’s Content ID system. From Youtube, to Amazon, Etsy, Google Play, Apple Store, and more, we've seen first hand how copyrgiht owners overreach.
Threats of Copyright takedown notices should not be used as a weapon against art or criticism copyright owners don't like. New Media Rights has been a strong advocate against "content bullying" (copyright holders using copyright to silence other's speech) You can read more about our work against content bullies
A strong, protected system of fair use, and lawyers willing to stand up to bullies who use these intimidation tactics are keys to thriving cultural and technological innovation.
Efforts to curb copyright infringement should be encouraged but not at the expense of legitimate uses. Supporting a balanced copyright system means taking efforts to reduce infringement without preventing legitimate uses, stifling new innovations, or bringing unnecessary harms to consumers and the public.
STRENGTHENING FAIR USE
Since 2009, we've advocated at the Copyright Office for many exemptions to "Anti-Circumvention laws" so that creators can make more fair uses of copyrighted works. Right now we're working to make sure more fair uses are exempted from Anti-Circumvention laws
RESOURCES AND TOOLS
The Fair Use App
New Media Rights built our Fair Use App to help video creators who ask the question "Can I reuse this?" If you're a creator using other people work in your work, learn more about when you can reuse content here
It's can be difficult to understand how critical fair use is to protecting free speech about social, political, and cultural issues without concrete examples.
Here are stories that show how important defending fair use is to protecting freedom of speech. Watch these films and videos from our clients to see films that rely on fair use in action.
- Brave New Films Making A Killing
- Covers individual stories and data evidence to explain 5 important aspects of gun violence, including mass shootings, domestic violence, suicide, gun trafficking, and existing safety solutions.
- Painted Nails Movie
- The negative health impact on workers of chemicals used in the nail salon industry, and the efforts to change the law to protect California nail industry workers.
Gender Discrimination & Inequality
- The story of gender discrimination in the video gaming community.
- Company Town Film
- The environmental and health impacts on one Arkansas town of a Georgia Pacific paper mill.