Just Because Something Is Used For Profit, It Can Still Be Fair Use

from the so-the-court-says dept

When it comes to copyright, content owners all too often believe it gives them a lot more control than it really does. For example, there's a belief that no one can ever use the content under "fair use" rules if it's for a commercial for-profit venture. One of the issues with fair use (which some in the entertainment industry continue to pretend doesn't exist) is that people often misread the four tests of fair use to believe that any commercial usage is not covered by fair use. Larry Lessig is pointing to an Appeals Court ruling highlighting why this isn't always the case. In the specific case, the Bill Graham Archives sued a book publisher for publishing a book about the Grateful Dead, using images of concert posters that were owned by the Archives. While the pictures are clearly being used for a commercial work, the court found that it was fair use. Specifically, they note that since the images are small and used within the context of descriptions about the history of the band, it's fine for fair use. It seems like a reasonable decision -- but could worry some copyright holders who freak out any time anyone uses their works in any way.

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  1. identicon
    emichan, 19 May 2006 @ 7:01am

    It's true that owning IP is different from owning actual property. Unfortunately, a lot of people confuse the two, and believe that holding a copyright gives them complete control of their content. This isn't true, and shouldn't be true. One of the main points made in the court decision is that the copyrighted images in the book were used in an historical context to enhance a historical/biographical work. This is considered scholarship, and comes under fair use, and the fact that the history was of popular culture is immaterial. I think we will see this kind of case a lot more in the future, especially as copyright protections are extended again, and again, and again, ad infinitum, much material of historical interest will still be copyrighted.

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