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Is Fair Use Fair?

With the advent of new technologies making it easier to produce copyright material, copyright owners are much more aggressive about demanding payment for even incidental captures of their copyright work in your copyright work. These demands can turn your $400 documentary into a six figure copyright licensing nightmare. Keith Akoi, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins have written a comic book Bound By Law – Tales From the Public Domain to address this issue and guide you through the maze of copyright and fair use.

While the book makes some good points and gives some good advice, it does not hit hard enough on the primary copyright and fair use questions you need to consider:

How likely is it that what you are doing is going to get you sued for copyright infringement?
Do you have the resources to make it to the end of a federal copyright infringement lawsuit?

While I am all for fighting the good fight and not paying the bad guy money to use against the next innocent victim, a pyrrhic victory, or more likely complete immolation at trial, does not help anyone. You may think you are becoming a martyr for the cause, but getting wiped out in court may actually do more harm to future victims than paying money. Large corporations often use a track record of putting infringers out of business to extract settlements. The smartest move for you is to review your copyright material beforehand to check for any potential copyright problems. With copyright issues, an ounce of prevention is worth about seven figures of cure.

Brett Trout

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