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"We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution." – Scott Cook

Electronic Frontier

My favorite definition of Fair Use is by the law professor G.H. Pike:
“Fair use inevitably involves an attempt by one party to use the creative product of another party.”

I recently read about two legal cases which involved digital video parody and Fair Use/Copyright law. The first video is a parody of Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit, Beat it.  It was created by a public library in Landsdowne, Pennsylvania in an effort to promote literacy among middle school and high school students. The library’s video, called Read it was immediately pulled by YouTube via orders from the Sony/ATV Music Publishing group — the owners to the copying rights of Michael Jackson’s song.  Sony claimed copyright infringement saying that the lyrics of Read it did not meet the criteria of Fair Use.  They said it did not qualify as parody.  After much media attention, controversy, and lobbying, Sony eventually backed down. YouTube sent a message on November 27 at 2:42 p.m. that stated: “Warner Chappell has released its copyright claim on your video, ‘Read It.’”
Here is the video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjwzcBTCxOo

The second video called, “WWITB” (What What In the Butt) is parodied on an episode of South Park. The creators of South Park were sued for copyright infringement.  A judge ruled in favor of South Park and said that the South Park creators accomplished the impossible by making  ‘WWITB’ video even more absurd by replacing the African-American male singer with a naive and innocent 9-year-old boy dressed in adorable outfits.” According to the judge, South Park had successfully transformed their own content into a commentary about “the ridiculousness of the original video and the viral nature of certain YouTube videos.”

Original WWITB viral video:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKE3dIrRIbg
South Park parody of WWITB http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APBlPcbZBJs

Fair use has become an important component of digital copyright law. These four concepts determine what can be defined as fair use:

  • the purpose and character of the use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used
  • the effect of the use on the market for the original

Electronic Frontier Foundation https://www.eff.org/

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a not-for-profit group which takes on legal issues dealing with technology, online privacy, and digital copyright issues.  The foundation is run by lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists who take on government agencies or large corporations to defend consumer rights, free speech, privacy, and other issues.

EFF’s “Whitepapers” section provides information about how EFF influences policy changes inside powerful groups and corporations which control media technology, including legislation in the government. Some of these issues concern biometric data and the Fourth Amendment – the right which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. Another key issue is online privacy and how the government attempts to unlawfully collect personal email from companies such as Google. Other issues deal with human rights, oppressive regimes, and patterns of misconduct by the FBI.

EFF’s “Technology” section provides consumers with high-tech information, including instructions on how to maintain internet privacy and security. Some of the topics include TOSBack, MyTube, Panopticlick, and SSL Observatory.  Many of these sites give information on how to keep browser searching more secure.

Many of the topics on the EFF site deal with free speech issues. Articles are posted about blogger’s rights, coder’s rights, and a user’s right to free speech on the internet. EFF informs the reader about how the infrastructure of the internet is in constant threat of chokeholds placed on free speech. This can involve web hosting services, ISPs, and search engines dealing with constant lawsuits and censorship demands.

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