On Twitter this week I searched #fairuse and was amazed by the number of tweets I found! One particular tweet caught my attention since it took me to a link of a court case whose contents will bewilder many of you. But first, let’s define what is fair use. According to http://www.expertlaw.com, fair use doctrine provides a set of guidelines pursuant to which researchers, educators, scholars, and others may use copyrighted works without seeking permission or paying royalties. Going deeper into what is fair use, I found that there are four factors which come into play when determining whether use can be considered fair use. These are: the purpose and character of use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion of the copyrighted material as a whole and the effect of the use upon the potential market or value of the copyrighted
I took into consideration all these factors as I read the article Dancing Baby Video Battle Back in Court. Reading the news item’s title, I wondered what could this video possibly have to do with fair use? Upon reading, however, I was unsure whether to remain in shock or laugh out loud!
So here goes.
A brief summary of the case (taken from the site) comes down to: Stephanie Lenz first posted the video to share with family and friends. In the 29-second clip, Lenz’s young son is dancing in the family kitchen to “Let’s Go Crazy,” which is playing on a stereo in the background. Remarkably, Universal Music Publishing Group claimed that the video violated copyright law, and had the video yanked from YouTube.
I can see that you are going through the same dilemma that I went through! It’s like “are you kidding me!”
On a serious note, however, I see no reason why the video should have been taken down. Looking back at the four factors which defines fair use we can see that at least three of the factors are covered in this case. Firstly, the video is only 29 seconds long which means that only 29 seconds of a four minutes thirty four seconds song was recorded. Secondly, the aim behind the making of the video was simply to share with family members and not for commercial use. Besides the song was playing in the background; probably even from the radio! It was not one of those instances where a video was made and the song attached to it or played over pictures. (Many of us technology people have probably done a video of pictures and added a song to it!) Thirdly, there is no possible way that such a short video, which did not intentionally broadcast the song, could affect its value or market potential. So once again, is it right that a big company should shut down a mother’s video? A video which was made simply as a way of keeping a memory?
When it comes to fair use we constantly have to be aware of how we use copyrighted intellectual property. Many times we are unaware that how we use another person’s property actually goes against fair use. Sometimes we are aware but we seem to think that we are but one small person in a world of billions and we are to miniscule to be caught. While this may be true to some extent we never know when we are going to be that one small person who is made an example of. Fair use not only protects others intellectual property but it also protects us from being jn trouble with the law. It also helps in the long term since using copyrighted material fairly reduces harsher restrictions in the society in which we live.
So use fairly my friends!