Fair Use?

cheshire cat

Stanford University Libraries’ Fairly Used Blog published a post on  22 December 2014 entitled

How much of a photo do you need to alter to avoid copyright infringement? Hint: Cheshire Cat

It poses a interesting case.  You can read the summary of the  US  7th Circuit court affirmation of a lower court decision that the image at the left here was fair  use of the photograph on Justia.com. (1)

Fair Use is a complicated issue and every case is judged on it’s own merit.  Every time I think I have a good handle on the issue another question arises that doesn’t fit or another decision is made that seems counter to previous decisions.  The best we can do is to follow the rules as best we can and keep ourselves informed on current issues and decisions.

The following links offer some interesting discussions on the issue of Fair Use.

  • You Tube has a page dedicated to Fair Use, where they give examples of uses of copyright protected materials for criticism, news reporting and remix.
  • The Digital Media Law website has helpful Fair Use page with a discussion of use of email and private letters.
  • The Center for Media and Social Impact in conjunction with The Association of Research Libraries and
    The Program on information Justice and Intellectual Property has developed The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries which seems pertinent to researchers and preservationist of all ilk, including genealogists.\
  • University of Texas has a Copyright Crash Course The section on Building on Others’ Creative Expression discusses the limits of Fair Use.
  • Daily Blog Tips: Copyright Law: 12 Dos and Don’ts offers some great tips on what can and can’t be used not only in Blogs but in any publications.

(1) Justia.com offers daily summaries of US Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and State Supreme Court decisions.

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Genealogy in Time – Let’s Talk About Plagiarism!

I often think there is only so much you can write about Copyright and Genealogy, but every so often an issue arises that makes me reconsider.  Tonight I received my copy of Genealogy in Time Magazine, and the major topic was not copyright….but beyond… Plagiarism.   It is often hard to decide when we are just sharing facts that others reported first, and we might err in trying to pass on what seems to be important information……….BUT…….. it shouldn’t be hard to know that directly copying someone else’s words and neglecting to put them in quotes or in any other way attribute them to the source is a step beyond.

I highly recommend you check out  Let’s Talk About Plagiarism  on Genealogy in Time and let the conversation begin.  Every genealogist should think about the ethics of how they share what they find.

PS….while you are on the Genealogy in Time website be sure to look at the links to new records on the web.  I find at least one new resource in every newsletter I receive.

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Another thought provoking copyright decision

Last week the 9th circuit reversed a Los Angeles federal judge and ordered Google to remove the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube. The ruling is controversial for a number of reasons.  This blog does not intend to take a position, but rather to lay out the facts and perhaps relate them to the genealogical world.

Facts.

  • The actress was paid to create a scene for a specific movie
  • The movie was never made
  • The scene was later included in an anti Muslim film with her voice dubbed over with an insult to Mohammed
  • The actress claimed copyright to her artistic work (It is important to remember that artistic expression retains the same copyright protection as writing a book or painting a picture)
  • The court upheld her copyright and ordered Google to remove the film

Over the years, as I held copyright discussions, the concept of using a copyrighted work in an “unacceptable” way was one of the hardest concepts to explain.  I would mention using a holocaust book in a Nazi display and other equally ridiculous ideas that no one could quite see happening.  Is this in fact that type of use?

Google, in its arguments, stated that taking the video down from YouTube would be pointless as it had already been widely distributed and that Garcia had contributed to her “notoriety” by filing a lawsuit to stop the video.  The 9th circuit called this argument preposterous and actress Cindy Garcia stated she is a “strong believer and supporter of the First Amendment and the right not to be associated with this hateful speech against her will.”

As I thought about this case it made we wonder about some of our “genealogical” practices.  We are wonderful collectors,users, and sharers of stories, sometimes to the point of forgetting the rights of those telling the stories.  Do we record without permission?  Do we share oral and video sessions without permission? Do we make a point of having a signed release for anything we have recorded?  If someone has sent us a family story do we make sure we have permission to share it before we do?

An oral or video recording might in fact be subject to copyright protection for artistic performance as well as protection for the telling of the story itself.  While facts can not be copyrighted the creative telling of factual circumstances can.

Another thought I had as I reviewed this case was the right to privacy of individuals.  That permission to share stories, recordings and videos can be really important in protecting privacy.  We are very quick to share stories and more on instant media: facebook; youtube; google+ and more.  Are we sharing items that others might be not want known?  Does the right to know drown out the right to privacy?

There are many fine lines that we need to pay attention to as we share our genealogies.

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