Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another "fair use" video and some thoughts

I saw this video posted on the copyright litigation blog and thought I'd share it:

I know I've posted about copyright before, but I think that the erosion of fair use is even more of a problem today than copyright violation.

Photographers worry a lot about people stealing their photos, and of course, that does happen all the time. Back when I was naïve enough to give clients unencrypted proof CDs (with low-res jpegs) it didn't take long for me to realize that people were printing out the crappy low-res unretouched files instead of ordering nice prints. More recently, I've moved toward a "free downloads" policy (and a price increase is coming soon) on weddings/portraits, but only print orders get full retouching. For commercial work, I let the people who represent me worry about it (they have more of a financial stake in it than I do).

As someone who loves street photography, I worry that the erosion of fair use makes daily life a legal minefield. Sure, it may be fair game (for now) to photograph people in public spaces, but what about logos, statues, art, etc.? Court cases are constantly redefining what you can and can't do. I can't keep up with all those cases, but I have noticed that fair use is under attack. Even libraries are being treated like enemies (read: "file sharers"). The common argument against fair use is the "copycat" attack, that is, people will be forced to be more creative if they can't copy. I think the above video makes a good case for fair use copying as an important part of cultural production.