Copywrite can be quite tricky and it certainly is a trouble when you’re trying to depict where you stand! There isn’t a clear border on what’s considered fair use and what isn’t. Today, we’re going to be discussing the fair use policy and copyright in general. PS: This post is quite long because of all the explanations. So sit down.
Copyright: (N) Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. This is usually only for a limited time.
Copyright & Their Uses
Basically, copyright is a legal right that tells the whole world, “I made this, don’t you go around using it without my consent.” It protects the object such as an article/ image/video / whatever can be copyrighted from being stolen by another individual. Isn’t that great? Now here’s the problem. Copyright can be quite tricky to understand, especially if you don’t have a basic understanding of the fair use policy. There’s a lot of do’s and dont’s on the internet, and “don’t disobey the fair use policy” is one of them. Adhere to these symbols, (if present), and follow them as often as possible.
Fair Use Policy
Fair Use: (N) In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. Such uses can be used WITHOUT notifying the copyrighter.
There you go, that’s as brief as it could get. So what does it mean for fellow bloggers or news journalists? For us bloggers and news journalists alike, it basically means that we’re permitted to copy one’s image / copyrighted material for the sake of commenting about it, criticizing about it, or create a parody of the copyrighted work. If you copied a game’s screenshots and posted it on your blog for the sake of reviewing it, you’re most likely fine.
The ice gets thinner when you profit off of the copyrighted work. The more directly the image creates money for you, the more you distance yourself from the fair-use policy. It’s quite tricky to see where you stand with the copyrighted image. Now you might be asking yourself.
“Why don’t I just input my own material and not copy someone else’s copyrighted work?”
In short, that works well. You’re 105% clear from any legal problems. But most of the time, we can’t always input our own material. Say for example that you own a travel blog. You’re writing about your experience to mount Fiji. However, you did not take any photos on your trip. Are you going to go back all the way to Japan to take a few snapshots of the mountain? The answer is quite simple.
“Absolutely the freak not. Why? Because it’d literally take more money to travel to Japan and back then it is to pay the copyrighter for a license to use his image.”
Most of the time, if you’re reviewing a product such as a movie or a game, then copying screenshots from the developer’s websites is fine. As long as the image is intended to go public, you should be fine. It’s a different situation if the image isn’t intended to go public and what you’ve done may affect the product’s value. Here’s an example.
Say for example that Rockstar Games released new screenshots of the upcoming GTA VI. They published the screenshots on their website. You then go ahead and copy the image and repost it on your blog for the sake of notifying the community of the news. This is completely fine. Why? Because you’re using the image essentially to comment upon the new GTA VI.
Now for scenario 2. You’ve recently finished Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, which congrats if you have by the way. At the end of the game, Bennett Foddy gives us the reward for achieving the top of the mountain and tells us that we should not record, capture or in any way, inform those who have not completed the game the reward as to not spoil it for them. You then go and paste a video or an image of whatever the reward is online. Bad news for you buddy, you’re probably under legal problems. Why? Because your actions may have caused an individual or more to not purchase the game because he now knows what’s on the top of the mountain. Fair use is also affected by the amount of original content copied by the copier. Copying a page from a book for the sake of reference or commentating on it, will most likely not result in a legal problem. But you can’t just go ahead and copy a whole book. You have no legal basis to do such actions. Also, Wikipedia has a brilliant quote for this particular problem/
In the 19th-century copyright case Folsom v. Marsh, Justice Story wrote:
“[A] reviewer may fairly cite largely from the original work, if his design be really and truly to use the passages for the purposes of fair and reasonable criticism. On the other hand, it is as clear, that if he thus cites the most important parts of the work, with a view, not to criticise, but to supersede the use of the original work, and substitute the review for it, such a use will be deemed in law a piracy.
Well, that’s copyright and fair use in short. Sorry for the lack of image, there isn’t really much use of pictures in this situation.