Category Archives: Fair Use

Fair Use Project on NPR

NPR’s Morning Edition featured a segment on Stanford’s Fair Use Project this morning:

“The Fair Use Project at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society seeks to lay the groundwork for artists and academics to use copyrighted work without permission in certain situations.”

Listen to the segment here.

Posted by: Ian M.

Public Domain Imagery Redux

Lewis Hine's Powerhouse Mechanic, 1920

Lewis Hine, Powerhouse Mechanic, 1920 – Don’t buy this image image! It’s in the public domain and can be obtained through the National Archives here.

A few weeks ago I posted a screed against large photographic stock companies like Corbis and Getty selling images in the public domain. Turns out, there is a legal precedent for this very behavior and guess what, it’s potentially illegal! At the very least, the reproductions being sold are likely not copyrightable.

In 1999, Lewis A. Kaplan, U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York, wrote the opinion on the case Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. against Corel Corporation, in which Bridgeman sued Corel Corp. for releasing a CD-ROM of reproductions of public domain artworks Bridgeman allegedly controlled. The court decided that reproductions of public domain works are not copyrightable because they lack originality and the express purpose is to provide a surrogate of the work represented. To quote Judge Kaplan’s opinion, which can be found in its entirety here:

“While it may be assumed that this [reproducing the works in question] required both skill and effort, there was no spark of originality – indeed, the point of the exercise was to reproduce the underlying works with absolute fidelity. Copyright is not available in these circumstances.”

The decision quotes a previous case, too, which eloquently states:

“Absent a genuine difference between the underlying work of art and the copy of it for which protection is sought, the public interest in promoting progress in the arts – indeed, the constitutional demand [citation omitted] – could hardly be served. To extend copyrightability to minuscule variations would simply put a weapon for harassment in the hands of mischievous copiers intent on appropriating and monopolizing public domain work. Even in Mazer v. Stein, [347 U.S. 201 (1954)], which held that the statutory terms ‘works of art’ and ‘reproduction of works of art’. . . permit copyright of quite ordinary mass-produced items, the Court expressly held that the objects to be copyrightable, ‘must be original, that is, the author’s tangible expression of his ideas.’ 347 U.S. at 214, 74 S.Ct. 468, 98 L.Ed. at 640. No such originality, no such expression, no such ideas here appear.”

To find more information about cases involving art, technology, copyright, and intellectual property, see the Fair Use Network’s Reference Cases page here.

Posted by: Ian M.

You’re Not the Boss of Me

Bound By Law? cover
Tales From the Public Domain: Bound By Law? Created by Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain

This weekend at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh: “You’re Not the Boss of Me: Copyright and Transgression Festival.”

“Artists, critics, lawyers and filmmakers will discuss copyright, criminality, fair use and transgression in contemporary American culture as they relate to issues of cultural ownership and cultural heritage in an informal and open forum.”

The festival features a lecture by Duke Law professor James Boyle, Director of the Duke Center for the Public Domain, artist Jacob Ciocci (co-founder of Paper Rad, see previous post), and a performance by the white-hot mash up artist Girl Talk, among others. Go here for the full schedule.

Posted by: Ian McDermott

Fair Use and James Joyce

The Fair Use Project (FUP) is part of the Center for Internet and Society (CIS), an arm of the Stanford Law School.  FUP has done significant work in the area of fair use in the arts. They have been engaged in a high-profile case involving a Stanford professor’s battles with the James Joyce Estate over the use of written materials in a biography on Lucia Joyce, the author’s daughter.

“Last June we sued the Estate of James Joyce to establish the right of Stanford Professor Carol Shloss to use copyrighted materials in connection with her scholarly biography of Lucia Joyce. Shloss suffered more than ten years of threats and intimidation by Stephen James Joyce, who purported to prohibit her from quoting from anything that James or Lucia Joyce ever wrote for any purpose. As a result of these threats, significant portions of source material were deleted from Shloss’s book, Lucia Joyce: To Dance In The Wake.”

The case was recently settled. Read about it here.

Posted by: Ian McDermott