Thursday, February 5, 2009

What's Fair about "Fair Use"?

"Fair use" is a complicated legal concept that will keep intellectual property attorneys plenty busy as videojournalism proliferates. Basically it dictates the conditions under which intellectual property (e.g. music, images) can be used for illustrative or critical purposes without permission from (or remuneration to) the copyright holder. Suffice to say that "fair use" is wide open to interpretation, with "users" generally taking a more liberal stance than "usees."

It's only the tip of the tip of the iceberg, but TVWeek's Daisy Whitney takes a stab at explaining 3 basic guidelines in her New Media Minute below (starting at 1:11).

But remember, if everyone agreed on what constitutes "fair use," then courthouses wouldn't be crowded with cases right now. Your best bet is not to contemplate how you can justify, rationalize, or "get away" with using existing images (or audio), but rather take the time and effort to track their source and formally seek permission and offer credit and/or compensation.

In short, journalists should follow that valuable lesson they learned long before J-school -- the Golden Rule. Ultimately, that's what's fair.

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