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.

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Companies: slate, washington post

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Comments on “Did Slate Violate Copyright Law?”

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Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

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.

“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.”

moe says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

rman says:

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.

Greg Marksinson says:

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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.

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