One of the more frustrating things about debating copyright issues is that copyright mythology sounds a lot more like the truth than the truth. For instance, many people believe that copyright law gives the copyright holder absolute, immutable control over a work, lasting into perpetuity. The truth -- that copyright has built-in limits to protect free speech, scholarship, research, and innovation (the "progress of science and useful arts") -- sounds like a lie. Surely all of that stuff is just bleeding-heart liberal, mushy-minded nonsense?
Oh, well, actually -- no. Fair use exists, and for very good reasons.
Thankfully, as more and more of us confront copyright issues in our daily lives, the number of copyright mythbusters is also growing. The past few weeks have brought us the usual heaping helping of copyright disinformation. Here, four pieces by mythbusters working hard to set the record straight:
Tim Lee, picking part a
policy brief shoddy propaganda document claiming that legislation to protect fair use will destroy copyright law as we know it: "[We] have this gem: 'Providing an exemption for any device that has non-infringement purposes effectively destroys all protections of copyrighted material.' I bet Justices Stevens and O’Connor will be surprised to learn that they abolished copyright law when they established precisely that standard in 1984. Who knew that America had no effective copyright protections until Congress enacted them in 1998?" (Here, Joe Gratz on the same "brief.")
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, responding to an NPR report on the Google Book Search debate: "It's painful to listen to as the discussion involves two commentators who don't know anything about copyright law and one representative from a university press who misrepresents copyright law ('You've always had to ask permission in traditional copyright law'... hello, fair use, anyone?!?!)."
Derek Slater, likewise rebutting the argument that any copying without permission is infringement/piracy: "Goldenberg is thus dead wrong when he says that Google Print necessarily takes control away from authors and 'compromises the spirit...of copyright.' If Google’s use is fair, the authors have no such control to begin with, and fair use is entirely consonant with copyright’s purpose. Google’s use is piracy only in the sense that fair use quoting is piracy."
Peter Suber, deconstructing a Google Book Search critic's mistaken argument that the project will harm small publishers because Google is republishing books under copyright (it isn't): "But perhaps P&C is really thinking about its public-domain books, such as the complete works of Daniel Defoe. It's possible that Google scanning of these books, coupled with its policy to provide free online full-text for reading, will undermine library sales and hurt P&C's business. If it wants protection from this threat, then we have to ask which is worse, Google's decision to take advantage of its right to use public-domain literature or a publisher's attempt to re-enclose the commons and extend copyright-like control over public-domain literature?"
I remain in the midst of blog-trumping life transitions, so I can't linger, but here are a few better-late-than-never links that address fair use: