Fair Use Skips a Groove

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Utne‘s own Julie Hanus recently reported on some promising and ingenious ways in which the fair use doctrine is thriving, but technicalities are still tripping up artists who should be protected by fair use.

Producers of the intelligent-design documentaryExpelledhave been exonerated in court after Yoko Ono and EMI Records sued the filmmakers for including a 15-second clip of John Lennon’s “Imagine”–but not without some difficulty. The film was released on DVD without the clip while the case was pending, which, Cyndy Aleo-Carreira at the Industry Standard argues, is an unfortunate side effect of what should have been an open-and-shut case. What’s more, she points out, fair use might not be enough to protect those who can’t afford to defend themselves in court: “If a film with Hollywood producers has trouble using media clips, what hope does an average citizen have of using something without worrying about huge legal expenses that could result?”

But Anthony Falzone, blogging for Stanford Law’s Center for Internet and Society, hails the case as a victory for fair use, in part due to the efforts of Media/Professional Insurance to cover the legal expenses of Expelled‘s producers and others sued in fair use cases.

At Slashdot, Ian Lamont reaches the same conclusion I did: It’s a bit ironic that the song sparking the lawsuit is Lennon’s utopian manifesto “Imagine.”

Image by orsorama, licensed under Creative Commons.

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