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Copyright

In the News - Copyright Today

International News

Marrakesh Treaty

  • The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted on June 27, 2013 in Marrakesh, Morocco.
  • It forms part of the body of international copyright treaties administered by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
  • Its purpose is to "facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled" (WIPO, 2016).
  • Why it matters: 
    • An estimated 4 million blind and other “print disabled” people in the U.S. alone as well as tens of millions more around the world would have access to published works (American Library Association, 2016). 

National News

HathiTrust

  • HathiTrust partners with major research institutions and libraries to "ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future" (HathiTrust, 2016).
  • In recent news, HathTrust Digital Library collaborated with the National Federation of the Blind to make more than 14 million digital books available to blind and print-disabled users.
  • Additionally, extensive reviews using the Copyright Review Management System (CMRS) were completed earlier in 2016, for which over 18 thousand works were determined to be in the public domain and will be added to HathiTrust.
Fair Use Cases

Why they matter: 

  • Fair use prevailed in these cases (below), and thus the balance has shifted in recent years to the beneficiaries, rather than the creators, of copyrighted works. These significant fair use cases offer reassurance to those who reuse, remix, and build upon copyrighted works (i.e. the general public, or really, just about everyone) by encouraging others to exercise the basic freedoms promised to them by the fair use doctrine.
  • Copyright is a balancing act between the creators of content and the users of that same content. Without fair use, copyright law would be unconstitutional, and therefore, it is a right that, when exercised, progresses the sciences and useful arts, as expressed in the U.S. Constitution

Google Books Court Case

  • The Author's Guild (AG) sued Google over its scanning of tens of millions of copyrighted books. 
  • Google argued that the scanning was fair use, because only limited portions of text are available for viewing. (The entire works are dark-archived). 
  • After a ten-year legal battle, the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Google.
  • AG filed an appeal which was refused by the Supreme Court in April 2016, leaving the appeals court decision in place.
  • Why it matters: 
    • Google used transformative fair use and technology as its vehicle to accomplish its purpose of making texts easily searchable, and thus, it has opened up doors for others to transform copyrighted works using technology. 

Georgia State Court Case

  • The publishers Cambridge, Sage, and Oxford sued Georgia State for copyright infringement of their textbooks used within electronic course reserves within online management systems.
  • The district court found only five of the 99 cases were infringing on the publishers' copyrights.
  • Originally, the court found more infringements using the arithmetic approach to applying fair use (e.g. the-ten-percent-or-one-chapter-rule). 
    • The Eleventh Circuit rejected this bright line rule and determined that fair use decisions must be conducted on a case-by-case basis.
  • The publishers have filed a second appeal.
  • Why it matters:
    • Fair use decisions have been determined to not be straight-forward in non-profit educational settings; they are complicated. 
    • The amount (or the third factor in fair use) that can be used is determined by the one reusing the copyrighted material and the amount used should be only the amount required to achieve the stated, socially-beneficial purpose or objective, not an arithmetically calculated amount. 
    • While fair use decisions in non-profit educational settings are not straight-forward, they are assuredly more low-risk than before the Georgia State court case.
      • The decisions in this case (presumably) discourage potential law suits against academic institutions and libraries.
    • See this blog post for more information.

"Dancing Baby" Case

  • Stephanie Lenz posted a 29 second video of her toddler dancing to a Prince song. 
  • YouTube informed Lenz that it had removed her video due to a take-down notice from Universal Studios 
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) partnered with Lenz and filed suit against Universal asking a federal judge to uphold fair use.
  • In 2015, an Appeals Court affirmed that copyright owners must consider fair use before issuing take-down notices.M
  • Why it matters: 
    • Misuse of copyright law in the form of bogus online copyright claims has largely been overlooked
    • Copyright owners now have to consider fair use before claiming copyright infringement or be liable for damages
    • This case helps protect the fair use doctrine and promotes freedom of speech
    • Prevents "thoughtless censorship of lawful speech" (EFF, 2015).