Harry Potter and the Order of the Court:
The J.K. Rowling Copyright Case and the Question of Fair Use
Copyright is an important aspect of online life today, and not very many people understand it.
“The Internet is FREE”, they claim. “Everything on the Internet is free for the taking!”
No, not so much. Rule number one of Internet legalities: Just because someone posted it on the Internet doesn’t mean that there is no copyright or that the material is free to be shared/taken.
Fact is, the very act of writing something yourself gives you an automatic copyright to that material that YOU created. Let’s emphasize that YOU created portion again. It has to be original work from YOU for you to claim the copyright – and even then, you can only claim the copyright on the portion that YOU edited.
Even large mass-edited projects like Wikipedia have a copyright… but Wikipedia explicitly says that the individual Wikipedia editors can’t claim copyright on the text that is contributed directly to Wikipedia articles — just adding the text to Wikipedia grants Wikipedia a licence to make that text available for public use. (Content that is already copyrighted outside of Wikipedia and still contributed by the original author falls under a different set of copyright guidelines — be sure to read that WP article for all the copyright details that may pertain to you.)
Brad Templeton, one of the early Internet pioneers, has 10 BIG MYTHS ABOUT COPYRIGHT that you may want to pay attention to. Three of these that Web Watch has heard often when advising others on what they can and can’t post on the Internet have been:
- It it doesn’t have a copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted.
- If it’s posted on the Internet, it’s in the public domain.
- My post was fair use!
Trust Web Watch and read all of Brad’s article — you’ll learn a lot about what you CAN and CAN’T do with your own Internet content.
Which brings us to YouTube.
You know all those music videos or lyric interpretations that people are posting? All illegal, unless they were posted by the original video creator.
Remixes of movies with different soundtracks? Illegal.
And even if the user posts “No copyright infringement intended” with the video – guess what? It’s still an infringement.
And that’s why YouTube has come out with their own video and pop quiz entitled YouTube Copyright School. Watch the video below, then visit the YouTube Copyright School page and take their quick quiz to see if you really do understand what you can and can’t post on YouTube.
So where does “Fair Use” come into play? According to BitLaw, there are FOUR FACTORS THAT NEED TO BE CONSIDERED FOR FAIR USE to be found. Copying photos from TMZ without their permission? That’s not one of these four factors:
- Is the alleged infringer doing this in a for-profit business, such as a newspaper? Why was the infringing item being used? What’s the overall use case going on here?
- What’s the nature of the original work being infringed upon?
- How much material was being used? This delves into “quantity vs quality”.
- Does your alleged infringement take away potential market from the original work? For example, does reposting a music video on YouTube take away audience from the artist who wanted to post the video themselves and split advertising revenue with YouTube?
Web Watch is not a lawyer, but if you’re concerned about Fair Use, Internet Copyright, and how your use of YouTube may be affected, you may want to check with an actual expert who can give you advice about your specific situation.
On the other hand, we love watching all those video mashups – illegal as they may be – so keep ’em coming until the infringement police come a-calling.