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Copyright Law and Fair Use To Be Addressed by Daniel Nazer in Free Lecture @ Cogswell College in Sunnyvale on Weds (April 11th)

Posted by Billyjam, April 10, 2012 04:50pm | Post a Comment
In advance of tomorrow's lecture at Cogswell College by Daniel Nazer on copyright law and Fair Use, the organizers at the Bay Area college pose this copyright law scenario:  "Could you put a real person--say Bill Gates--in a computer game? How about a comic book? In both cases, it would be risky to do so without permission from Gates. But what if you transformed Bill Gates into a half man/half worm creature? Strangely, you could probably do that without paying Gates a penny. This doesn't make much sense. Why should transforming Bill Gates into a worm creature make the difference? This weird rule is the result of a test from copyright law--transformation--colonizing other areas of the law."

Titled "Transformation, Copyright, and the Right of Publicity in the Digital Age" the lecture promises to address issues surrounding the all important topic of fair use in this digital age where so information is freely passed around by so many. According to Dr. Alexander Sigman (Adjunct Professor of Digital Audio Technology and Digital Entrepreneurship), who is event organizer & instructor of the course associated with the lecture series. at Cogswell , "In copyright law, something is more likely to be fair use if it somehow "transforms" the original work. Similarly, in right of publicity cases, courts are increasingly looking to whether the depiction of a celebrity is somehow "transformative."" Sigman says that in his lecture Nazer will argue that this transformation test is applied in a way that threatens free speech in the digital age.

According to Sigman the lecture is being presented in the context of a series on "Sharing and Protecting Your Work" that address "a variety of intellectual property issues from a variety of perspectives." To date other guest speakers have included leading IP lawyers, entrepreneurs, and deep thinkers on copyright, patents, trademark, and trade secrets in tech and digital arts industries. "It is intended that Daniel Nazer's lecture inform digital arts practitioners and distributors of issues surrounding the current state of Fair Use exceptions in the US, challenging the "transformation test" as a metric of Fair Use on the grounds of the free speech restrictions that this test may entail," said Sigman.

As a fellow at Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project, lecturer Daniel Nazer represents writers, publishers, filmmakers, and others who rely on fair use to create their art and scholarship and hence is one of the more knowledgeable figures on this gray area of Fair Use and copyright law. Recent era incidents of Fair Use litigation include Shepard Fairey's lawsuit (settled last year) over the Obama image owned by Associated Press that he appropriated into his iconic Obama "Hope" poster. In that case Fairey agreed to give up Fair Use rights to AP Photos. An earlier case - one that predated the current digital age - was the well publicized one two decades ago surrounding sample-happy, sound-collage Bay Area group Negativland and their U2 copyright infringement case which they lost but inspired them to write a book on the topic (1995's Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2) and make more songs addressing the issue. The suit was based on their U2 EP, which contained the song "The Letter U And The Numeral 2" with Top 40 radio DJ Casey Kasem talking about U2. The actual lawsuit, filed by U2's label Island Records, claimed that by placing the word "U2" on the cover of their record that Negativland violated trademark law, as did the song itself and, as Island saw it,Negativland's single's cover art was a deliberate attempt by the avant garde group to dupe U2 fans, eagerly awaiting at that time the release of U2's next album Achtung Baby, into purchasing what they believed to be a new U2 record.

On knowing how more prevalent copyright and Fair Use has become in very recent years I asked Nazer if he thought that, in the past couple of years, if Fair Use had changed a lot? "There has not been a great deal of movement one way or the other in the last two years on fair use.  I think the Cariou v. Prince case currently before the Second Circuit is very significant, however." replied Nazer. "In that case, a photographer, Patrick Cariou, is suing a painter, Richard Prince.  Prince incorporated some of Cariou's photographs of Rastafarians into his paintings.  The District Court ruled for Cariou and essentially limited fair use within art to situations where the second work directly "comments on" the original somehow.  If the Second Circuit affirms this ruling, it threatens an entire tradition of art."

I noticed lately that there appears to be less blatant online music file-sharing (especially major label's music) and also that search engines like Google are blocking links to many illegal file sharing (music and movies especially) websites. So will there be no illegal file sharing in the near future I asked Nazer? "I don't think regulation will ever completely stamp out online piracy -- not unless Congress is willing to destroy the open internet do to so.  We learned from the SOPA debate that the public values the open internet too highly to let Congress destroy it - and SOPA would not have been effective against piracy in any event," he replied.  "There are some proposed measures (such as the Issa/Wyden OPEN Act) that could help reduce piracy without abandoning due process.  Ultimately, the best response to piracy is the content industry providing better legal online content -- serving, rather than fighting their customers.  They are finally starting to experiment with new business models (e.g. Spotify) that make sense in the new world."

Daniel Nazer's lecture "Transformation, Copyright, and the Right of Publicity in the Digital Age" takes place at Cogswell College Wednesday, 11 April @ 7PM. There is no cover charge for this event which is open to the public, and is part of a Lecture Series sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Program at Cogswell. To RSVP to this event, follow this link and for directions & general info on the college & campus

Relevant Tags

U2 (11), Copyright (2), Cogswell College (1), Stanford Law School (1), Richard Prince (1), Patrick Cariou (1), Bill Gates (2), Dr. Alexander Sigman (1), Shepard Fairey (8), Fair Use (1), Negativland (4), Ap (1)