“[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching…scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” This excerpt from the Copyright Act of 1976 sounds simple enough, but let that be the tip off; from it unfold promiscuous appropriation to proliferating media. Fair use is an essential defense against copyright infringement, but its four point test (measuring “purpose and character of the use”; “nature of the copyrighted work”; “amount of substantiality of the portion used”; and “effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work”) is famously ambiguous. Copyright affects us all- whether you’re a teacher Xeroxing a textbook for class or a Beastie Boy sampling “Rapper’s Delight” – and as the “creative commons” movement picks up steam, it’s also one of the most volatile legal issues of our time.
Marjorie Heins is the Founder of the Free Expression Policy Project, and has been a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the Open Society Institute, and from 1991-1998 directed the American Civil Liberties Union’s Arts Censorship Project. She has taught at Boston College Law School, UC San Diego, Tufts University, and more. She is the author of numerous books, chapters, and articles about free expression, copyright and media reform, including: Not in Front of the Children: “Indecency,” Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth and The Progress of Science and Useful Arts: Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom.
David Bollier is a journalist, activist, consultant, editor of Onthecommons.org, and author, Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture and Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth. He is a Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication, whose work focuses on fighting the excesses of intellectual property law, fortifying consumer rights, and promoting citizen action.
Michael Hermann is the Director of Licensing for the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Foundation’s objective is to foster innovative artistic expression and the creative process by encouraging and supporting cultural organizations that in turn, directly or indirectly, support artists and their work.
Click below for associated curriculum.
This relevant documentary was aired on RIPBS as part of Action Speaks’ programming during the Fall 2005 recording season.