Did Slate Violate Copyright Law?

from the nobody-knows dept

Slate has a clever video comparing Hillary Clinton to Tracy Flick of the movie Election:
This isn't a blog about politics, so I won't venture an opinion on whether this is fair to Sen. Clinton or not, but the video has sparked some interesting discussion about copyright law. First, Cynthia Brumfield points out that this is precisely the kind of video that Hollywood (specifically, NBC's Rick Cotton) would disallow under the fair use doctrine. Cotton argues that "the assembly of unchanged copies of different copyrighted works" shouldn't counted as fair use, but that there should be "something more" to qualify. This is quite vague, but it seems pretty likely that the above video, which is basically just 45 seconds of movie footage interspersed with footage of Sens. Clinton and Obama, wouldn't qualify under his test. But Chris Soghoian points out an even more obvious way that Slate may have broken the law: the most likely source of the video clips in question would likely be from a DVD. As Soghoian points out, the video is too crisp and clear to have come from a VHS tape. It's conceivable that it was taped from a cable TV broadcast, but I think he's right that the most obvious source would likely have been a DVD. If that's the case, then the video editor in question almost certainly broke the law, because DVD-ripping tools like Handbrake are illegal "circumvention devices" under the DMCA. Of course, it's not likely Election distributor Paramount will actually sue Slate, which is owned by the influential Washington Post Company. But I think it illustrates the extent to which the letter of the law is diverging from everyday practice. In a sane world, there would be no question that videos like this one would be legal. But in the world we actually live in, no one is sure what the law is, and people developing these kinds of creative works need to be constantly worrying about possible legal problems.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ron (profile), Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 7:18am

    Yeah?

    OK, I watched the video. My comment: Who cares?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Jim, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 8:00am

    Parody

    Clearly a parody and therefore fair use.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 8:02am

    When fair use of DVD is made illegal

    then all DVD-RW are illegal.

    These laws are not about fair use, they are about taking away your ability to use content/goods/services as you see fit.

    It is the dawn of the nanny state where the government begins to take more and more control of your life.

    from the way you use your computer to your choice of health care (or lack), to your choice of thermostat setting, your choice to drink alcohol, to smoke, to bare arms. Death by a 1000 cuts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Weapon_Shops_of_Isher
    "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free."

    "The avalanche has already started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote."

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 8:15am

    Re: When fair use of DVD is made illegal

    What? There are some nice people at your door in white jackets to help you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    AlexC, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 8:18am

    analog out

    Slate didn't have to defeat any encryption by ripping, they could have used the analog outs and legally done a digital-analog-digital conversion.

    However, there still should be a fair use limitation on the anti-circumvention measures of the DMCA.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 8:57am

    That was the worst video, ever. Whoever made it should be sued, for whatever reason anyone can think of.

    I feel like less of a person for having watched it, knowing that I will never get that minute and a half of my life back.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Vincent Clement, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 9:00am

    Re: analog out

    Or better yet, just kill the DMCA. It is anti-competitive, anti-innovative and anti-consumer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 9:11am

    Ajax, During the Packers/Giants game, they showed shirtless fans. Seems our right to "bare" arms is alive and well in America.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 9:22am

    This situation is just getting insane. If you aren't diminishing the commercial value of the original work or substituting for the original work in it entirity then it is clearly fair use.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Mitch the Bitch, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 9:26am

    It's the AUTHORS of the DMCA

    Don;t just kill the DMCA, kill it's fn authors.

    Everyday the skumbag demoncrats are stealing YOUR liberty. Liberalism is the slow road to tyranny and if YOU elect another Demoncrat and expect anything different YOU should be killed...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Reason, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Re: It's the AUTHORS of the DMCA

    Yeah, as if the Republicans were not after your liberty either...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Re: It's the AUTHORS of the DMCA

    Paraphrase of Mitch's post: "If you don't agree with me, you should be killed."

    Funny, that doesn't sound at all like tyranny to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Inquisition (profile), Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 10:31am

    Well, if Prince can force videos off of YouTube for just having a snippet of his song in the background, I'm sure that Paramount could sue Slate.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 10:51am

    "The video you are trying to watch cannot be viewed from this website."

    Apparently, Mitch has had TechDirt banned from the interweb tubes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    moe, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    Re: When fair use of DVD is made illegal

    Your mixing up DVD technology and DRM technology. All DVD-RW aren't illegal because many people use recordable DVDs for other things than making copies of DVD videos. Most consumer video cameras nowadays are digital, so making your own DVD videos is a common use. On top of that, DVD-R is my medium of choice for making data backups.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 1:46pm

    Selective Enforcement

    Of course, it's not likely Election distributor Paramount will actually sue Slate, which is owned by the influential Washington Post Company.

    Just make everything illegal and then use selective enforcement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    Re: It's the AUTHORS of the DMCA

    Wow. Either you really need to stop spewing your tripe because you're doing nothing to help your cause, or you are actually a very clever Democrat in disguise trying to make everyone hate Republicans.

    Back on topic, the DMCA is horrendously flawed, but until someone sues a Congressman or something for a violation, I doubt we'll see any serious effort to mend it. The fact that an issue like this would even come up is painfully sad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    rman, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 1:22pm

    Ever hear of DVR?

    I agree with an earlier statement...Who cares!

    However if the only item in question is quality, ever hear of a DVR? I record shows daily on mine and can easily put them to DVD without ripping.

    It's all about money, the potential of money really. If a show would never have been seen otherwise, is it really valuable?

    They should take down Wierd Al if this is not fair use.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    yanira, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    idk cuz people got to learn that id bad doing that

     

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  20.  
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    vtr, Nov 27th, 2009 @ 12:06am

    that is odd.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Greg Marksinson, Jan 11th, 2010 @ 11:41pm

    Pliers are one of the most useful tools one can own. My personal favorite is snap ring pliers since they can be used for both internal and external rings. Probably one of the more common type of pliers are needle nose pliers. They are great for grabbing things in tight places or holding a nut down. If you're going fishing anytime soon don't forget your fishing pliers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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