Fair Use Victory!

Bambi vs. Godzilla (211/365) by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Bambi vs. Godzilla (211/365) by JD Hancock from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The Ninth Circuit of the Federal Court handed down an important ruling regarding fair use this week. In Lenz v. Universal, aka the “Dancing Baby” case was about copyright, DMCA takedown notices, and fair use. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued Universal Music Publishing Group after Universal sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice when a mother uploaded a 29-second video of her baby dancing to a Prince song.

The key element of this court ruling is that the court declared that “copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a [DMCA] takedown notice.” Prior to this case, fair use was regarded as an “affirmative defense.” If you’ve seen my YouTube videos, you have seen this one where I declare, “Fair use is a defense, not a permission slip.” This court said that’s not the case, but rather that fair use is authorized by the Federal Copyright Act. There is no copyright infringement if your use of another’s copyright-protected work is permitted by fair use.

If you’re interested in learning more about fair use, I wrote a post that includes a mnemonic device for the fair use factors for a panel I did at Phoenix Comicon on fair use and fan art/fiction.

There are two downsides to the case (at least for now):

  1. Although the court said that copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a DMCA takedown notice, they only have to have subjective good faith belief that the use of the copyrighted work is illegal, even if this belief is objectively unreasonable.
  2. This ruling only applies to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit is comprised of Arizona, California, and most of the western United States. However, this ruling is not binding on the other ten Circuit Courts, but they can take it under advisement in future cases.

This case is a step in the right direction and will hopefully lead to fewer abuses of the DMCA. You can read the EFF’s full report about the case here.

Footnote: This case took eight years to reach this ruling. Sometimes pursuing a lawsuit is the right decision, but you have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.

How the copyright laws apply to the internet is a legal issue that is constantly developing. If you need a resource about how the law applies to social media, please check out The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. If you want to chat with me about a specific question related to copyright or internet law, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Call Your Representative to Oppose CISPA

Laptop Stickers by YayAdrian

The U.S. House of Representatives could be voting this Friday on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). It’s important that you call your representatives today and let them know that you oppose CISPA, and they should too.

CISPA is the government’s latest attempt to invade our privacy. They say the law’s purpose is to prevent and counteract cyberattacks. This law will let private companies and the government ignore every privacy law and share your personal information. All they need to have is a “good faith” belief that they’re doing it for cybersecurity purposes, which sounds like they’re allowed to manipulate the way they describe a situation  to manufacture a good faith belief.

The proposed law has had a few amendments aimed at protecting our civil liberties, but I’m not convinced. The amendments will still let agencies like the National Security Agency have “unfettered access to information about Americans’ internet activities and allow those agencies to use that information for virtually any purpose.”

CISPA - The Solution is the Problem by DonkeyHotey

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great resource that gives you your representative’s phone number and a script you can use when you call them to urge them to vote against CISPA. I called my representative, Ben Quayle, and I was shocked to learn that he’s a co-sponsor of the bill. I told his office that he should stay out of my computer (and my vagina for that matter).

Here’s your to-do list:

The government will always try to overstep the limits and invade our privacy. It’s our job, as the people who hired them, to keep them in check and tell them what to do.