Our readings this week discuss the practices of copyright, copyright law, and fair use. I’ve been doing some research on what fair use is and how it is typically interpreted by courts, and I’m still having some trouble understanding exactly when someone can use another person’s work.

According to Title 17 of the U.S. Code, works can always be used by others for purposes like “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research” without fear of copyright infringement. In addition, the factors considered for fair use are:

  1. “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

However, as interesting as this information is, I’m still uncertain as to when I am allowed to use something I didn’t create. These guidelines are incredibly vague, and I wish I could understand their nuances better. For example, in my podcast, can I use clips of songs because I’m commenting on/criticizing them? Can we use video clips in our long-form project documentary because we’re in an academic setting?

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in the Lenz v. Universal case, a mother had “a short video of her toddler son dancing to a Prince song” removed from YouTube because the video allegedly violated a “copyright controlled by the music company.” I don’t want this to happen to me simply because I don’t completely grasp the concept of fair use. Hopefully, I am more enlightened after class this week!


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