Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The Mission Statement.
What is the purpose of this blog, and my eventual message board? Simple. I hope to create a dialogue between artists, lawyers, and interested persons in the field of copyright, trademark, free speech, and general civil rights law. After reading about the Free Expression Policy Policy Project, I realize the fundamental problem in the law today is that artists/speakers/individuals simply do not know what the law is or what their rights are. Most sites that currently exist do not create enough of a dialogue between interested parties and academics. This hopes to change all that. The basic problem I see is that the supposed law of "Fair Use" no longer exists. The summary of what "fair use" is is as follows: Although a copyright owner is granted five exclusive rights in his or her copyrighted work, the owner’s rights are limited by the doctrine of “fair use.” Fair use grants someone other than the copyright owner a limited privilege to use the copyrighted material in a reasonable manner, without the copyright owner’s consent. Under the Copyright Act, the use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research are generally not considered copyright infringement. Four factors are considered in determining whether use of a copyrighted work is a fair use or an infringement. These factors, which are discussed in detail below, include: • the purpose and character of the use; • the nature of the copyrighted work; • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and • the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. That is fair use in the copyright context. It seems so simple, and yet it has become misunderstood. Furthermore, artists/web designers/businesses get "take down" notices, and will often take down the offending works, merely out of fear of further litigation - even if the work in question falls under "fair use." So what then? Society loses out. Free speech loses out. Copyright/trademark/free speech issues are more important now than ever before. As we have seen with the Danish cartoons, the issue of free speech has become life or death, and can be a catalyst for rioting and even wars. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, according to Brandenburg v. Ohio, unless the speech in question is directed toward inciting imminent lawless action AND it’s likely to do so. This ruling is now under attack from reaction to the Danish cartoons. Furthermore, Cindy Sheehan was recently arrested for wearing a shirt during the State of the Union Address. Issues of free speech, in short, are more pertinant now than ever before. These issues are not easily understood, nor are they uncomplicated. Not enough people care about the First Amendment and less understand the fundamental tenets of copyright/trademark law. The law that once was devoted to "promoting the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries" (Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) has become anti-Progress. This blog and the eventual website it will accompany will track the laws that affect speech, enabling a useful discussion of what all of our rights are. After all, if you don't know your rights, you lose them.