In re: Fair Use

I caught while flipping up from the Cavaliers game a discussion that had Jack Valenti former Chairman of the MPAA and Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law had on Justice Talking. While I missed most of it, I thought it was interesting, especially when it came to the issue of fair use where the two men departed company. Lessig believes that fundamentally a copyright holder doesn’t have complete control over their work once released, and Valenti does. An example they went over was using 10 second clips of a Donald Duck cartoon spliced into a home movie (Real example from one of Lessig’s friends who was denied such usage by all but 1 movie studio) The argument by Valenti is that it doesn’t stop at the 10 secs and you need to look at the total usage (millions X 10 secs I think is part of what he was saying, but he wasn’t entirely clear, actually he said he personally would let you use 10 secs, 2 mins would be too much, but that it should be up to each copyright holder) Lessig felt that ‘fair use’ which is a fundamental part of free speech should allow such use, just as you can quote part of a text.

Lessig further discussed the difference in the allowance of covering a musical work or including it in your own, and the inability to sample, and how this is chilling our generations creativity. I for the most part think I agree with Lessig, in that I feel that we are better off with a ‘commons’ of ideas and that fair use is a concept which allows a great good, be it using Donald Duck in your home movie or whether its including a splice of a song in your new song. Hopefully I can find the show somewhere and catch it again, it was on TV but I think its actually an NPR show. The only down side was the questions from the audience which came from highschoolers, including a question of “Is bootlegging illegal” to which Valenti was confused at first by, not understanding the term bootlegging, or possibly put off by such a question.

Update: I Just checked, the show was actually from Sep 16, see website, you can view the video of the show here.

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