Yes, it’s true. For the third year in a row, July 11 is Fair Use Day. What? You’ve never heard of Fair Use Day, or its founder, Eric Clifford? Perhaps you’ve heard of the nascent Pirate Party of the United States, which supports Fair Use Day. OK, maybe you haven’t heard of them either. But doubtless you’ve heard of fair use. It’s been a rather embattled doctrine of late, but comment and criticism, not to mention our old friend parody, are still protected under Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Of course, what fair use actually means is open to interpretation. For example, if you asked the Copyright Alliance (which has a bit more money than the Pirate Party of the United States) whether fair use is a “right”, you would get this reply:
No. There is no right to make Ã¢â?¬Å?fair useÃ¢â?¬Â? of a work. An individual does not have the Ã¢â?¬Å?rightÃ¢â?¬Â? to make use of anotherÃ¢â?¬â?¢s copyright work. If that were the case, someone might be able to publish excerpts from your private letters against your wishes or break into your house in order to get a copy of a valuable photograph under the guise that they had a Ã¢â?¬Å?rightÃ¢â?¬Â? to get a copy of your copyrighted work to make a fair use of it.
Lawyers disagree about the conceptual nature of fair use. Some lawyers claim that fair use is merely a defense to a claim of copyright infringement. Although fair use is often raised as a defense, many lawyers argue that fair use can also be viewed as having a broader scope than this. If fair use is viewed as a limitation on the exclusive rights of copyright holders, fair use can be seen as a scope of positive freedom available to users of copyrighted material.
It should come as no surprise that the Copyright Alliance membership list reads like a who’s who of the content industry. The MPAA and RIAA are joined by an array of big players, from Major League Baseball, the NCAA, the NBA, and the NFL, to NBC Universal, Newscorp, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner, Viacom, and the Walt Disney Corporation. If you’re nervous about having your content placed on the Internet, you’re probably a member of the Copyright Alliance. You’re probably not all that excited about Fair Use Day either.