Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fair Use versus Free Use

The issue of copyright appears again today in the New York Times where they report on an association of computer and communication companies, who have raised a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission accusing several publishers and other media companies of misleading and threatening consumers with overstated copyright warnings.

The complaint alleges that the warnings may intimidate consumers from making legal use of copyrighted material, like photocopying a page from a book to use in class. It raises the thorny issue of ‘fair use’ which can vary from country to country and where the rules on the Internet are not universal. Fair use could, for example, involve compiling and analyzing copyrighted visual images to create a visual search engine, transferring a song from a CD to an MP3 player or compiling film clips to create a multimedia presentation for a school assignment. The current legal battle between Viacom and Google over YouTube unauthorized content.

So what are the rules over fair use in the UK? This is the official extract from
The UK Copyright Service.

1.What is fair use?
In copyright law, there is a concept of fair use, also known as; free use, fair dealing, or fair practice. Fair use sets out certain actions that may be carried out, but would not normally be regarded as an infringement of the work.The idea behind this is that if copyright laws are too restrictive, it may stifle free speech, news reporting, or result in disproportionate penalties for inconsequential or accidental inclusion.
2.What does fair use allow?
Under fair use rules, it may be possible to use quotations or excerpts, where the work has been made available to the public, (i.e. published). Provided that: The use is deemed acceptable under the terms of fair dealing. That the quoted material is justified, and no more than is necessary is included. That the source of the quoted material is mentioned, along with the name of the author.
3.Typical free uses of work include: Inclusion for the purpose of news reporting.Incidental inclusion. National laws typically allow limited private and educational use.
4.What is incidental inclusion?
This is where part of a work is unintentionally included. A typical examples of this would be a case where holiday movie inadvertently captured part of a copyright work, such as some background music, or a poster that just happened to on a wall in the background.
5.Points to keep in mind...
The actual specifics of what is acceptable will be governed by national laws, and although broadly similar, actual provision will vary from country to country.Cases dealing with fair dealing can be complex, as decisions are based on individual circumstances and judgments. This can be a very difficult area of copyright law. To avoid problems, if you are in any doubt, you are advised to always get the permission of the owner, prior to use.

Any clearer? On the Internet what is clear this that this area is going to get murkier before it gets clearer. It raises the importance of rights management. In the area of rights permissions, knowing what you have and have not and what can and can not be deemed fair use and finally when usage is granted but not free the commercials involved.