Is It Time To Redefine Fair Use?
from the outdated-concepts-that-need-refreshing dept
We’ve covered the first and second parts of the NY Times “debate” over copyright issues between Rick Cotton and Tim Wu. In both of those, we focused on Cotton’s assertions, which were understandable given his role as General Counsel at NBC Universal, even if based on many faulty (and troublesome) assumptions. The third piece in the series discusses the issue of “fair use,” and here Wu’s response is much more interesting than Cotton’s. Cotton basically repeats the industry talking points, trying to reduce fair use to a very small exception to copyrights and suggesting that a more digital world really has no impact on the question of fair use. Wu, however, points out that the growing digital world has drastically stretched the concept of fair use to its limits. Copyright and fair use were designed to make sense in a world of professional publishing. In a world where most content is not actually professionally produced content for the purpose of being sold to a mass audience, but is amateur to amateur in the form of personal communications, then it probably is time to rethink both copyright and the definition of fair use.
The entertainment industry (and, indeed, Cotton does so here) loves to suggest that fair use is simply too complex to be explained — and, therefore, for mere mortals to understand. What they really mean, is that it’s fairly complex to fit antiquated fair use concepts into the current digital world where so much content is amateur created. Wu highlights this by suggesting it’s time to rethink fair use and come up with a more up-to-date understanding of how it could be applied. He suggests a standard of: “work that adds to the value of the original, as opposed to substituting for the original, is fair use.” This seems like a fairly reasonable standard to use, if you’re going to have fair use at all. We’ve seen way too many attempts by copyright holders to completely shut down things that clearly add value and don’t act as substitutes. It would be interesting to see supporters of stronger copyright laws explain why that test shouldn’t be a part of fair use.
Filed Under: fair use