Posted by: zachputnam | November 16, 2015

Understanding Fair Use

I appreciated the readings from CMSI on the code of best practices for fair use. I think fair use is one of the most important and misunderstood ideas for creators today, as illustrated in the CMSI article on how journalists think about fair use. Unfortunately, I think the fear of corporate litigation has scared many creators into erring on the “safe” side, and their final products suffer unnecessarily as a result.

For several years, I worked as a live VJ, remixing found footage and psychedelic effects in real time on projection screens at clubs and concert halls. My interpretation of fair use in that setting was quite liberal, and I think rightfully so. My VJ work was highly transformative of the source material, and fit squarely under number 6 on the CMSI code of best practices: “a new work that depends for its meaning on (often unlikely) relationships between the elements.”

On the other hand, when a museum commissioned me to create a video homage to the ways that human flight (both fictional and factual) has been portrayed throughout the history of pop culture, there was a rigorous examination of our fair use rights by the museum’s curators. It was decided that our piece fell under numbers 1 and 2 on the CMSI code: “Commenting on or critiquing of copyrighted material” and “Using copyrighted material for illustration or example.” We were also careful to credit all our sources. What do you think, is this video fair use or copyright infringement?

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