Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's Fair Use?

I thought it'd be helpful to make my Fair Use page it's own blog entry. First, there are four factors I feel have created this whole mess.

People Are Clueless About What They're Doing
An important distinction that users of the Internet don't understand is that adding content to the Internet is like traditionally publishing a printed magazine, book or newspaper. Writers write articles, artwork is created by artists and photographs taken by photographers. Publishers pay a staff to create content or it's purchased from an outside party. For a publisher to use content it didn't have a right to and without permission, would be scandalous! Lawyers would be involved, heads would roll, careers ruined.

Any Idiot Can Blog
There aren't millions of print publishers in the world, because it takes lots of time, is expensive and requires many skilled professionals to publish. If a print publisher violates a copyright, it's easy to find and go after them. Now, with the Internet, creating a blog post with text and images is incredibly fast, inexpensive and involves very little skill. And there are literally millions upon millions of these fools out there. Whether you're creating a blog, writing a forum comment or posting images to your FaceBook page, there are now millions of idiots roaming wild with no knowledge or care about copyrights.

Copyright Laws Don't Apply To Me
These new "publishers" know nothing of copyright laws nor do they care they exist. People see something on the Internet and they feel that it's not only free for the taking but that they should be able to do anything they want with it. And it's so easy; a simply cut-n-paste or drag-n-drop and you're done!

Copyright Laws Will Destroy the Internet!
Detractors argue that applying copyright laws to Internet content would drastically reduce the amount of content to the point that there will hardly be any content at all. Since content is king on the Internet, the Internet would be dead they say. Obeying the copyright laws would only reduce content in violation of the law. Domains say they don't want the hassle of policing all of the content that gets put on their site, so they argue that it would simple be too hard to do. Actually, what they would have to do is what print publishers have and still are doing - policing their own content and making sure that what they publish, they have a right to publish.

Again, publishing on the Internet is like publishing a book, magazine or newspaper. The copyright and trademark laws that apply to any printed edition, applies to anything that appears on the Internet. If it still hasn't sunk in, reread the last sentence.

Below is a copy of my Fair Use page, which is specific for my website. More general and in-depth info can be found here.

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Fair Use of Copyrighted Material

All of the content within the domain of www.marchansenstuff.com is copyrighted by Marc Hansen. All of the artwork and stories within the comic books of Ralph Snart Adventures, Weird Melvin or Doctor Gorpon are copyrighted by Marc Hansen. All rights reserved. None of the text or images from this website or from the comic books may be used or reproduced without express permission from Marc Hansen. Ralph Snart is a registered trademark.

If you plan on displaying any artwork (covers, panels, etc.) or quotes from any stories or articles by Marc Hansen, continue reading. Under Freedom of Speech, you may use a limited amount of artwork or quotes of copyrighted material. However, there are rules that must be followed for material protected by U.S. Copyright and Trademark laws. A limited amount of copyrighted material may be used under the Fair Use doctrine if the usage satisfies certain criteria.

There are five basic rules to keep in mind when deciding whether or not a particular use of an author's work is a fair use:

Rule 1: Are You Creating Something New or Just Copying?

The purpose and character of your intended use of the material involved is the single most important factor in determining whether a use is a fair use. The question to ask here is whether you are merely copying someone else's work verbatim or instead using it to help create something new. The Supreme Court calls such a new work "transformative." The more transformative your work, the more likely your use is a fair use.

There is nothing new or transformative about simply scanning an author's artwork and displaying it on the Internet or publishing it in printed matter. An example would be a website displaying scans of comic book covers. Without any editorial context, and beyond the "here's scans of all of my comic books", this is NOT transformative or fair use.

You may own the physical comic book, and own the digital files of the scans, but you do not own the artwork depicted. If you want the scans for personal use, keep them off the Internet.

An acceptable example would be a website or publication about humor comic books in general, in which Ralph Snart Adventures was but a part. Or, an article of criticism on RSA. Or an article on the artistic style of Marc Hansen. Or to show images when selling an item on eBay. In each example, a limited number of images may be used under fair use to help illustrate the points of the article.

In the acceptable examples, there is editorial content to support the use. Simply displaying or publishing copyrighted artwork without an editorial or creative context is not fair use. A further example is a comic book price guide. Images of cover art may be used because the context is of an informative guide of the value of comics, as well as (usually) information as to who published, wrote and drew the comic. The editorial content supports the "fair use" assertion.

Rule 2: Are You Competing With the Source You're Copying From?

Without consent, you ordinarily cannot use another person's protected expression in a way that impairs (or even potentially impairs) the market for his or her work. Thus, if you want to use an author's protected expression in a work of your own that is similar to the prior work and aimed at the same market, your intended use isn't likely a fair use.

Rule 3: Giving the Author Credit Doesn't Let You Off the Hook

Giving credit and fair use are completely separate concepts. Either you have the right to use another author's material under the fair use rule or you don't. The fact that you attribute the material to the other author doesn't change that.

Rule 4: The More You Take, the Less Fair Your Use Is Likely to Be

As a general rule, never quote more than a few successive paragraphs from a book or article, or take more than one chart or diagram. It is never proper to include an illustration or other artwork in a publication or website without the artist's permission.

Rule 5: The Quality of the Material Used Is as Important as the Quantity

The more important the material is to the original work, the less likely your use of it will be considered a fair use.

All of the comic book artwork of Marc Hansen is copyrighted for publication in a comic book, but it is also copyrighted for use on the Internet. If a website displays digital images of covers of Ralph Snart Adventures, with no "transformative" usage, the site is not only violating Rule 1, but also Rule 2 by competing with www.marchansenstuff.com, which also displays RSA comic book covers and artwork.

Here are three actual examples of copyright violators trying to profit off of the work of others:

- Website A displayed scans of comic book covers, including Ralph Snart Adventures, while offering all of the scans for sale on a CD-ROM. Nothing transformative, just scans of artwork displayed and sold without the permission of the creators/copyright holders. Website A made no attempts whatsoever to contact me and get any permission.

- Website B displayed scans of comic book covers, including Ralph Snart Adventures. Each web page had, not editorial content to support the fair use, but Google ads with the disclaimer "Please click on my ads" (Google pays ad hosts so much for each click).

- A seller on eBay who was scanning entire comic books and selling the books as digital files on DVDs.

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