Wednesday, January 25, 2012's confusing

In class we had a lot of discussion about what constitutes 'fair use' vs. copyright infringement as well as questions on what can and cannot be copyrighted.  

One student asked if a football team's playbook could be copyrighted.  I did my best to answer at the time - that the actually book itself could potentially be seen as creative and therefore copyrightable.  But what about other teams 'stealing' plays and improving upon them?  Is that copyright infringement?  It would certainly put a damper on football if it was and honestly off the top of my head, I didn't know the answer.  I started searching the web and came across an article at the Freakonomics site. 

What got my attention is their use of the word - innovation, used to describe a 'new to the world' play.  Other teams can then take this innovation, study it and improve upon it.  In comments for the Freakonomics article, someone suggests that the innovation process described above is just that a process and not protected. Copyright protection doesn't extended to  "any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work." (Title 17, Chapter 1, 102(b)).  So, I sort of got it right - the playbook itself can be copyrighted, but the plays cannot as they are a processes - at least that's mine and a couple of others best non-lawyer, this isn't legal advice, opinions. 

The questions about fair use mostly centered on the use of music - is it really ok to use 30 seconds of a song?  What about sampling?  The truth is - I swear I read that it was somewhere, but now after googling I'm even more confused.  The answer seems to be - no.  I did find a great site that summarizes some of the copyright infringement cases involving fair use.  Copyright Website has several summaries about lawsuits concerning different entertainment industries.  The 2Live Crew case brought about by their sampling and rewording of Roy Orbison's Oh Pretty Woman is summarized and demonstrates the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Fair Use guidelines.  

I also found Stanford's website on fair use that has articles and videos from a variety of sources.  The EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) also has a good FAQ on fair use.  Lastly, I found a cute and informative site used for primary eduction called CyberBee.  It has an interactive Q&A about copyright and fair use.  Unfortunately, it doesn't have citations, but you can look at their answers here.  

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