December 7, 2005

A Revival of Fair Use

Category: IP Law,Politics,Tech — @ 7:59 am

Yesterday Peter Jaszi who was at the forefront of the critique of authorship project in the early 1990s, came to visit at the Center for Cultural Analysis. During his seminar presentation as well as public talk on his project he brought up some very interesting points about the limits of the Creative Commons project when discussing copyright activism aimed at building a strong fair use foundation for documentary film makers.

His critique of the Creative Commons was the following: In affirming the creation of a commons through individual choice and voluntary gifting, it trivializing the importance of public rights and access that are built in to the copyright system. The danger is that we will end up with two different systems in which the commons material will only arise from those creators willing to relinquish some of the exlusive rights of copyrights. This is quite valid and perceptive. But in many ways, given the seemingly unstoppable movement of copyright law toward greater protections, I think the only way to put a stop to it was through the creation of an alternative model. In this case, legislation and policy was not going to do the trick.

That said, now that there is a robust alternative, now that the hegemony of IP assumptions have been punctured, it does seem more imperative than ever to foment a copyright culture that respects, much more than it does now, the idea of public access and goods.

This is where in fact Jaszi is channeling his energy. He is one of the folks behind the Best Practices in Fair Use at the Center for Social Media. It is a project aimed at cultivating an ethic for greater access and set of best practices among documentary filmmakers who are being strangled financially because of licensing fees for music and other materials.

According to his talk last night, in the last decade there has been a “fair use renaissance” honoring the principle. This project fosters this awakening in the realm of documentary film by creating a set of best practices that are presented to courts who apparently are quite interested in what communities of practices do in regard to their craft. On top of it, they are using this material in film schools which seems so essential. So much of our professional ethics derive from educational socialization so this is vital component to this project.

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