April 4, 2009

Fair use in the digital age

How does fair use work in an age of social media?

JD LasicaFair use — the tradition that individuals may make use of copyrighted works for a range of purposes that are legal — is enshrined in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. Other countries have their own versions of fair use.

Many people mistakenly believe fair use gives them broad, indiscriminate leeway to appropriate copyright holders’ works. Fair use is somewhat limited in scope. But Lawrence Lessig, the author and Harvard law professor, makes the important point that free use covers much more terrain than fair use. So does Peter Jaszi, another noted academic. Fair use is limited to carveouts, or exceptions granted to certain classes of individuals, in the Copyright Act. Free use covers longtime traditions like taping television shows on your VCR.

Fenwick-West, a prestigious intellectual property law firm in San Francisco, wrote the following fair use guidelines for Ourmedia.org members. The same guidelines apply to anyone who uploads works to any public website.

Fair use guidelines

The best way you can avoid infringement is by obtaining proper permission from the copyright or trademark owner before using it in your work, even if you only use a small part of his or her material. Simply crediting a copyright or trademark owner whenever you use his or her material is not a substitute for obtaining permission. If you do not obtain permission and you are not sure if your work falls within the fair use guidelines outlined below, consider consulting an attorney or avoid using the material altogether.

Cyberspace law differs by jurisdiction and is developing rapidly. A reasonable fair use policy seeks to reflect U.S. and international intellectual property laws, but copyright is a rapidly evolving arena.

Copyrights

A copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as published and unpublished written, visual, and audio works. Examples of copyrighted material may include music, films, television programs, and photographs. Copyright laws usually do not protect, among other things, ideas, procedures, discoveries, and works in the public domain (i.e., standard calendars).

Be mindful, however, that many things commonly thought to be in the public domain are not, so you need to be very careful to do a little research before assuming that something is in the public domain. For example, just because someone posts something online does not mean that he or she is allowing anyone to use it for any purpose. A copyrighted work does not need to say that it is copyrighted, or have the copyright symbol © on it. The copyright owner has the right to copy or permit others to copy his or her material.

Copyright infringement occurs whenever someone uses rights reserved just for the copyright owner without proper permission from the owner. You could be guilty of infringement if you improperly use another’s copyrighted material, even if that use is unintentional.

If you live outside the United States, be aware of the copyright laws governing your jurisdiction. Many countries have ratified international agreements and are members of organizations that seek to protect copyright owners.

Copyright ‘fair use’

The “fair use” of another’s copyright material means that, depending on your particular situation, you can sometimes use a part of another’s copyrighted material in your own work without permission from the owner. You may fairly use another’s copyrighted material provided that your work essentially transforms the copyrighted material into something original and creative, such as a parody, satire, or political statement.

It is not automatically fair to use another’s copyrighted material for a noncommercial, educational, or private purpose, or to exercise your First Amendment rights. It is usually fair use to use just enough of another’s copyrighted material that is necessary to communicate your ideas.

Examples of actions that may infringe others’ copyrights include the following: attempting to make money from another’s copyrighted material; completely duplicating another’s copyrighted material; creating a new work comprised mostly of another’s copyrighted material; and paraphrasing another’s copyrighted material without permission and attribution.

Trademarks

A trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies particular goods or services as those made or supplied by a person or entity. The owner of a trademark possesses the license to use the mark. Examples of trademarks include the bulls-eye symbol for Target, and word marks like Xerox and Macintosh.

Trademark infringement occurs whenever someone uses rights reserved just for the trademark owner without the owner’s permission. You could be guilty of infringement if you improperly use another’s trademark, even if that use is unintentional.

If you live outside the United States, be aware of the trademark laws governing your jurisdiction. Many countries have ratified international agreements that seek to protect trademark owners.

Trademark ‘fair use’

The “fair use” of another’s trademark means that, depending on your particular situation, you can sometimes use another’s trademark in your own work without permission from the trademark owner. You may fairly use another’s trademark inconspicuously in your own work to identify that product or service, while avoiding the risk of misattributing your work to the trademark owner. Fair use often permits “fair comment” of another’s trademark, such as comparing your product to another’s in an advertisement. A work that incorporates another’s trademark in a genuine parody or satire is often fair use, so long as it is not a disguised attempt to compete with another’s products or services.

Examples of actions that may be infringement include altering another’s trademark or the product or service associated with it, or directly or indirectly making false claims about the trademark or product or service with that it is associated.

Copyright Act

Here is the wording of the U.S. Copyright Act with respect to fair use:

Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include–

(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.

Additional resources

U.S. Copyright Office on fair use: Can I use someone else’s work? Can someone else use mine? (FAQ)

Socialbrite’s law resources

Center for Social Media’s Fair Use Project

Stanford University: Copyright and fair use

Documentary filmmakers’ statement of best practices in fair use

Podcasting legal guide

Wikipedia on fair use

Wikipedia on copyright

University of Cincinnati Libraries: Using Images FAQs

Nolo law center: When Copying Is Okay: The “Fair Use” Rule

Stanford University Library: Summaries of Fair Use Cases

Creative Commons on remixing

Please comment on, correct or expand upon this article.

April 2, 2009

Comparing Terms of Service at video sites

Target group: Cause organizations, nonprofits, NGOs, educators, students, businesses, general public

Drop down to see:
YouTube   Blip.tv   Ourmedia   Internet Archive   Yahoo Video   Revver   Google Video   Metacafe   DoGooder TV

JD LasicaMany organizations and users don’t give a second thought to the rights you forfeit over the use of your content when you post a video to a site like YouTube. Here’s a site-by-site breakdown of what you get — and give up — by consenting to the Terms of Service at some of the major video sites.

YouTube

YouTube’s TOS.

  • Ownership/licensing: You own your work but grant YouTube wide rights to reuse it.
  • Creative Commons licenses?: Not yet permitted. (Creative Commons explained.)
  • Payment to producers?: No.
  • Can you remove your work?: Yes.
  • Can they sell or license your video?: Yes.
  • Can they put ads on or around your video?: Yes.
  • Share your data with third parties?: No, though users may need to opt out.
  • Unsolicited emails?: No, though users may need to opt out.
  • Bottom line: YouTube is the 800-lb. gorilla of video hosting sites. Most people are there to gain visibility rather than income for their works; it remains to be seen how they’ll react if their work is sold to a third party without compensation to them.

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April 2, 2009

Amazee: a platform for social activism


Amazee from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaDania Gerhardt, co-founder and chief of finance and operations for Amazee.com,
discusses “the world’s first social collaboration platform.” Her company, based in Zurich, Switzerland, launched in September 2007 and the platform went public in May 2008.

Amazee is a platform for social activism and enabling groups and movements to use collaborative tools. I’m excited by what Amazee brings to the table, and I’ll definitely be following Amazee’s progress in the months ahead. The interview conducted during Supernova 2008 in San Francisco, is 7 minutes long:

Watch the video on Vimeo
Watch the video in original H.264 on Ourmedia
Download original video from Archive.org

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April 1, 2009

What is RSS?

JD LasicaRSS (Really Simple Syndication) refers to news and content that comes to you. More and more people are zeroing in on the material they want — content from bloggers, news outlets, even advertisers — and getting it through online subscriptions rather than through random Web surfing.

RSS lets publishers stream content instantly to users who have subscribed to their feeds, and it lets users follow the latest entries on lots of sites without having to check them one at a time. When new material is posted on a site, subscribers are notified and sent either full versions or summaries.

Users can subscribe to updated text and rich media either by using an RSS reader (also called an aggregator), through some email programs like Yahoo! mail, through a Web browser (both Firefox and Apple’s Safari have built-in feed readers), or by using a service, such as MyYahoo or NetVibes, that lets you collect feeds of your choice on a personalized Web page you create.

Just subscribe to a handful of feeds by clicking on the XML or RSS button on web pages, and you’ll see content appear in your reader of choice only minutes after it appears online. If the term RSS is too techie for you, that’s fine. Yahoo! almost never uses the term; instead, they talk about subscribing to content.

News readers

RSS news reader programs, or feed aggregators, include:

For more background

• A rich directory of RSS Resources can be found on the Social Media Co-Lab Wiki
News that comes to you — RSS feeds offer info-junkies a way to take the pulse of hundreds of sites and blogs.
Tools for the info-warrior — RSS readers ride to the rescue of heavy news grazers.

Please comment on, correct or expand upon this article.

April 1, 2009

GoodVision: Powering corporate social responsibility

This post is condensed from an April 2008 dispatch from Israel on Socialmedia.biz.

Group shot

JD LasicaWe had a fascinating conversation over a lunch of yummy falafels at GoodVision, an Israeli consulting company that specializes in planning and managing corporate social responsibility processes in firms and governmental agencies. General manager Ivri Verbin took us through the site’s mission and mentioned these sites, which also support community efforts:

  • The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire, a good U.S.-based resource for news about the space.
  • Global-demos.org, which describes itself as “a transnational civil society platform. It pools the globally dispersed and fragmented knowledge on the social and environmental performance of corporations. It empowers citizens, unites civil society and democratically embeds global business practices.”
  • Koldor.org, the first Jewish global platform of young leadership. established seven years ago by professionals around the world.

But the highlight came when six young people trooped into the room. Ariel Markhovski, Moran Haliba, Polina Garaev, Yael Rozanes and Gregory Karp were brought in to discuss perceptions of Israel around the world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other high-minded issues. (Two of the young women wore their Army uniforms.) Their view of the prospects for peace ranged  from skepticism to hope. “I think when our own children grow up, then there will be a chance for peace,” said one.

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March 31, 2009

WordPress and TypePad compared

Both services are versatile, but WP has pulled ahead

Matt Mullenweg, CC photo by Robert Scoble

Matt Mullenweg, CC photo by Robert Scoble

JD LasicaPeople still ask us all the time which blogging platform they should use. (Micro-answer: It depends on what’s important to you.) During the first few months of 2009, we decided to launch two new ventures — Socialmedia.biz and Socialbrite.org — on WordPress.org platform. Let me explain why.

I’ve been blogging since May 2001, first at Dave Winer’s Manila platform and since 2003 on Six Apart’s TypePad. I was content for a long while, but over the past couple of years a revolution was brewing at WordPress — and finally reached the point where I could no longer ignore its pull. In WordPress.org, Matt Mullenweg (pictured above) offered a free, open source platform that thousands of developers were coding for. (We opted for self-hosting rather than the hosted wordpress.com version.) Somewhere between 2007 and 2008, WP became not only comparable to TypePad, but better. Not because of Matt’s coding prowess, but because of the power of crowdsourced development. I now find myself attending WordPress Camps, alongside BarCamps, Social Media Camps and other open media efforts born of my involvement with Ourmedia.org.

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