Thursday, October 9, 2008

Is cutting and pasting images from the internet "Fair Use"?

Well, yesterday I was playing ball with my dog, Denver,(a Sheltie/cattle dog mix), and my mind wandered on to the copyright topic. No, I swear, this really happened, but I guess, like all of you, my mind has been focused on the topic quite often lately. It seems like if you start thinking about copyright, you start thinking that everything you do, academically-speaking, might potentially be a copyright infringement! While I was completing an assignment for another class, I cut and pasted some pictures out of Google image, and I lamented a bit about whether I was “allowed” to do this. The images even said that they may be subject to copyright which of course, heightened my fears of being thrown in the clink for copyright infringement.

After I cleared my head, I cracked open our Copyright for Schools text to see what Simpson had to say about cutting and pasting images from Google. I asked myself if my fair use argument would hold up in court. I examined the four factors that need to be considered:

1. The purpose and character of the use (Why are you using the work or for what purpose? For nonprofit educational use or for criticism or commentary?)

2. The nature of the copyrighted work (Is it factual or creative? and Is it published or not published?)

3. Amount of work used

4. Effect of the use on the market (Are you taking earnings away from the copyright owner/publish?)

Here’s my justification for “fair use.” My purpose for using the image from Google was for nonprofit educational use because I was using the picture in a project for my 504 class to post in a wiki. I wasn’t using it on a logo for something I intended to make money on so #1 was in my favor. I definitely lost some points for fair use on #2 and 3 because I used an entire creative work of an artist, but part of #2 was in my favor since the artist’s rendering was “published” or posted as a Google image so that made me think that the artist might have thought that someone might want to use their image.

Lastly, in “Copyright for Schools,” Simpson says that courts have given #4, the effect on the market, “more importance than the other three even though the law does not indicate that one of the four factors is more significant in a fair use assessment.” That said, I think that the fact that my use of the Google image is going to have little or no effect on the market is the strongest aspect of my fair use argument. Because I am posting the picture in a wiki on a secure network that only my professor and 19 or so classmates will see, I think the likelihood of getting sued by the copyright holder is very unlikely, and if I did get taken to court, I think my fair use argument would hold up.

So, what do you think of my analysis? Have some of you found yourself pondering some of the same copyright dilemmas?