Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Road to No Fair Use

Jason Mazzone

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist has issued a bizarre video apology (telepology?) for using a David Byrne song, "Road to Nowhere," as part of Crist's Senate 2010 campaign ad. Crist's apology is presumably part of the settlement, announced yesterday, of Byrne's $1 million lawsuit against the Crist campaign.

The incident illustrates everything that is wrong with fair use law as it operates today. Settlements of infringement cases mean we lack a significant body of judicial decisions on the meaning of fair use law. This, combined with the vagueness of the fair use provision of the Copyright Act, makes it very hard for anybody to know in advance whether a proposed use is fair.

Even worse, Crist's apology reflects the now standard view of copyright owners that there is no such thing as fair use. Here is how Crist's apology ends: "I pledge that should there be any future election campaigns for me, I shall respect and uphold the rights of artists and obtain permission or a license for the use of any copyrighted work."

The problem is not every use of a copyrighted work requires permission or a license. A public figure like Charlie Crist should not be spreading the false message that permission is always required -- not even to get off the litigation hook.

Older Posts
Newer Posts