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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Copyright and Fair Use

I had a funny thing happen to me last week--and by funny, I mean strange, not humorous. I was checking email at lunch while I was at work and among the notes was a take-down notice. Yes, someone was accusing me of infringing on their copyright.

This left me puzzled because I'm very careful about this and I couldn't think of anything I'd posted recently that even touched on someone else's material. I clicked through on the link they'd included and it was a blog post I'd written nearly two years ago. Yep, it was from January 2011 and we're nearly to 2013. I read through what they were objecting to. Four sentences.

I got a take-down notice for quoting four sentences.

There's this part of copyright law called the Fair Use Doctrine. I'm linking through to the Wikipedia entry for anyone who wants to read in more detail about it, but basically it allows others to quote copyrighted material within certain circumstances.

Since four sentences can hardly be construed as too much material, I was fine there. I also fell within the category of commentary--I was fine here as well.

The take-down email also, quite frankly, pissed me off. It still pisses me off when I think of it. Some corporation is trying to quell Fair Use of material and this isn't good. Believe me, I'm a strong supporter of copyright, but I also believe that companies like this one are doing more to hurt copyright in the long run than all the pirates running loose on the internet.

Sending intimating take-down notices for instances of Fair Use does nothing but foster resentment, and ultimately, will lead to more people pirating material. Fair Use exists for a reason--so that people can talk about ideas and share thoughts. Fair Use is vital to society.

And I took the blog post down anyway, despite being assured that there were attorneys who would take on the case for free. It galled me to do this, but I did it anyway because it's just not worth the time, energy, and aggravation to fight a take-down notice on a blog post that's nearly two years old. So the bullies get away with it and no doubt will go on to bully others. I'm sorry about that.

The event was covered by Tech Dirt. They have the four sentences I quoted. They also have a screenshot of part of my blog before I took the post down.