Deliberately setting out to test the rights and limitations of the Fair Use doctrine, digital producer and copywriter Jean-Baptiste Henri Franck Cyrille Marie Le Divelec (JB for short) has edited Stanley Kubrick’s 2-hour and 41-minute classic epic down to 569 animated GIFs. Permission from Kubrick’s estate was not requested. Instead, JB wants to make the point that since the GIFs are silent and and contain only 256 colors, this format should be protected from copyright infringement arguments by the Fair Use doctrine.


An interesting example of how malleable the transformative aspect of Fair Use can be. I’m curious to see if this soundless and subtitled version of 2001: A Space Odyssey will be contested or not. For now, you can watch it here.




Late last month, The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation decided to drop all royalty fees, permissions, and license agreements for anyone who wants to reproduce the artist’s works under fair use. From the Foundations website: “We are pleased to announce a new Fair Use policy–the first to be adopted by an artist-endowed foundation–that will make images of Rauschenberg’s artwork more accesible to museums, scholars, artists, and the public.”

A both fair and important decision as Branden W. Joseph, Rauschenberg expert and professor of modern and contemporary art at Columbia University, points out: “To publish an academic book, it can cost several thousand to over $10,000 for images.” (NYT)

“Monogram,” by Robert Rauschenberg. A combine from 1955–59. Image from Robert Rauschenberg Foundation


Remember the “Dancing Baby” lawsuit? It began back in 2007 when Stephanie Lenz uploaded a 29-second long video of her toddler dancing to the Prince song “Let’s go crazy” to YouTube. When Universal, Prince’s publishers, sent her a takedown notice Lenz refused and instead began, with the help of Electronic Frontier Foundation, a legal battle for fair use. Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled unanimously in favor of Lenz and the EFF and while doing so, the three-judge panel included a guideline strongly favoring fair use, ruling that “copyright holders like Universal must consider fair use before issuing takedown notices.” (NYT)

To require a case-by-case basis evaluation by rights holders and content users alike seems perfectly fair – a big win for fair use.

By far, the most important thing I (re)learned at this year’s annual copyright conference at UCCS is that we, librarians and staff at academic institutions, should treat each and every copyright related question we get as a teaching opportunity. Several times during the conference, the highly esteemed featured speakers Dr. Kenneth D. Crews and Kevin Smith eloquently reminded the audience that only attorneys can and should dispense with legal advice. The rest of us, regardless of our positions, experiences, and titles at our individual institutions, share the role of educators, and rather than policing our communities, we are here to educate our patrons about copyright. What this means in more practical terms is  that none of us should ever (allow ourselves to) be put in a position of making decisions about other people’s use of copyrighted material. Instead, our job is to teach and empower students, faculty, and staff to see themselves as both content creators and content consumers. As such, we all need to know how to make informed decisions, understand the importance of being able to formulate strong arguments in favor of our use of copyrighted materials, as well as to recognize when there is actual need to consult an attorney.

To paraphrase Dr. Crews, we should all end every conversation about copyright with the question: “Did you notice that I didn’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do?”

Monkey see, monkey do

August 11th, 2014

On an expedition to Indonesia, British photographer David Slater had his camera stolen by a trigger-happy and photogenic macaque that – remarkably! – managed to take a phenomenal selfie. Among humans, whoever hits the shutter generally gets the copyright, but what happens if a monkey takes a photo? The Wikimedia Foundation maintains that the photo is in the public domain while Slater claims he owns copyright. What do the experts say? Here’s an analysis.

In its decision Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict from 2012, by Federal Judge Chin, in an important fair use ruling in the Authors Guild vs. HathiTrust case. Ruled “a quintessentially transformative use” by the court, HathiTrust’s massive scanning project could have a potentially far-reaching impact on making works accessible for the print disabled. Read more here.