World Fair Use Day in DC January 2010

I attended “The First Annual World’s Fair Use Day” at the Newseum in Washington D.C. It was organized by the D.C.-based non-profit consumer advocacy group, Public Knowledge. There is lots of information and coverage on this event at I will limit my comments to some personal musings (in chronological order as the day unfolded.)

First, I note, the event was free.

Second, Nina Paley (listed bio as filmmaker, animator, cartoonist and copyright critic) wore a black short-sleeved t-shirt with the word: ©ensorship. We know her perspective on copyright. Nina did say that her content is free online however she sells her CD’s. Nina advocates copyright reform and/or broader fair use. Her comments were general but she wants full use of all content for use in her own creations. She is fine with others using her works in any manner.

Third, Dan Walsh, creator of Webcomic “Garfield Minus Garfield” is happy to make money from his work, but through ads, as he does not want to deal with licensing his own works.

Fourth, Pat Aufderheide, director of social media at American University’s School of Communication and person behind the many best practices guides on fair use for online video (remixes), education and documentary filmmaking, proudly shared her work. She mentioned future guides including one on fair use best practices for research librarians. Interesting guidelines and worth reading however remember they are guidelines and not what the Supreme Court or the Copyright Act is stating. My own perspective: having copyright compliance policies are almost always helpful; make sure your policies/guidelines work within the policies and culture of your own organization.

Fifth, Professor Peter Jaszi (AU Washington College of Law) words of wisdom: Best thing U.S. Congress can do is leave Section 107 on Fair Use alone and leave us all to interpret it. Concurred by Tony Falzone (Director of Fair Use Project and lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School). Tony also added: ambiguity and flexibility = strength behind fair use.

Sixth, internationally speaking, there was little discussion. It was mentioned that fair use as in the U.S. is uniquely American. Also, it is unlikely that fair use would ever be the international norm. During my time today I heard no panellists speak about the fact that fair use is likely/arguably broader in the U.S. than most elsewhere (including fair dealing in other countries), and what happens with national treatment and applying the standards in another country when content (legally used in the U.S.) is an infringement in another country? Also missing from the discussions — moral rights protection which exist in most copyright laws around the world but only in a minor manner in the U.S. A relevant topic for online content use and remixes and mash-ups and other situations where a fair use defense may be claimed.

Seventh, a word from the U.S. administration. White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Andrew McLaughlin (also proud owner of a Droid phone and former global public policy head for Google) disclaimed anything he said could be held as representing the White House. He then said: the administration is “serious about IP enforcement”, fair use is not an excuse for infringement, and there is a need to balance both sides of the copyright equation – reward creators and have flexible fair use principles.

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