Fair Use Week 2016 Questions & Answers

How fast can I get jailed for not using a reference page? (Aaron Michael Thomas)

Plagiarism is slightly different from copyright infringement. See our answers below to previous questions regarding plagiarism. If you have more questions feel free to ask us on our social media or email us.

Is it fair to submit an assignment that you already did for another class? (Cedric William Huntington via Facebook)

This is more of an ethics question. Technically you own the copyright on the paper you wrote so you can do whatever you’d like, but you’d need to defer to the syllabus for the class or the honor code for ethical questions.

I’ve read that modification and reverse engineering of software can be protected under fair use, even when it’s for commercial purposes. How do fair use laws justify this? (Scott Maughan via Facebook)

This is a complex issue that is open to debate. In fact, Oracle and Google are litigating right now over the same question in a high-profile case about  the relationship between the Java programming language and the Android operating system. (For more information, click here.) Although the commercial nature of the use disfavors fair use, there are other factors that may result in a finding of fair use.

If I collaborate on a video, but my partner copyrights it without me, do I need their permission to use it? (Alysa DeFranco via Facebook)

In general, copyrights are officially protected once they’re fixed in a tangible medium (they don’t need to be registered). Copyright registration is important if you’re interested in protecting your copyright from infringement. Your question is a question of ownership and you’d need to work out the details directly with your partner about ownership. If you agree that your partner owns the copyright in the video then yes, you’d need permission to use it. If you contributed significantly to the video and feel that you have at least partial ownership right to the video then you need to have a direct conversation with him/her about it and get an understanding in writing (a simple email should suffice). It’s important to clarify these matters early on in case a video goes viral or something. There are many tragic copyright stories of people losing ownership of something they created due to lack of clarity.

How much editing does it take in Photoshop for a photo that’s not yours to be okay? (Heidi Lewis via Facebook)

There is no exact percentage or amount that needs to be changed in order to be considered a “new work”, and thus, not infringing. If you’re just wanting to use the image because you don’t want to take the time to work up something fresh yourself then you may have a problem. Fair use only protects certain uses for comment/criticism/scholarship/research/teaching. If you’re commenting on or criticizing the photo then it’s likely fair use. If you’re simply wanting to re-use the image for other non-fair use purposes then you probably need permission to use the photo. In Kienitz v. Sconnie Nation, a photographer sued University of Wisconsin college students for re-appropriating the following image on T-shirts that were distributed for sale at a block party.

However, the courts found it was fair use because they had changed enough of the original image (by removing the background, turning the subject’s face lime green, and surrounding the image with multi-colored writing). Therefore it did not substitute for the original photo in the marketplace. The court said defendants removed so much of the original that, “as with the Cheshire Cat, only the smile remains.” What remains is an outline of the subject’s face (and a hint of his smile), which cannot be copyrighted. Defendants altered the photo and designed the shirts as a form of political commentary, and not for profit. (NOTE: The subject in the picture is the mayor of Madison, WI and as a student at University of Wisconsin in 1969 he attended the famous Mifflin Street Block Party. However, as mayor he had a change of heart and wants to shut down the event. The students made the T-shirts as a form of criticism of the mayor’s hypocrisy.)

Can I essentially plagiarize anything as long as I tweak it enough and call it a parody? (@realjeffdejesus – Jeff DeJesus)

If you’re “plagiarizing” something to parody it then you’re likely not plagiarizing at all. Plagiarism is when you deceitfully claim something as your own work. True parodies are highly protected under fair use for first amendment reasons (think the Daily Show with Jon Stewart). A true parody comments on the original work you’re taking from. For example, the Studio C Hunger Games videos. It’s also important to understand the parody vs. satire distinction. Most “parodies” you see on the web are really satires. Satirical videos are ones that use another’s copyrighted work to lampoon society in general. See viral “Dark Lord Funk” video or most of the recent Adele “parodies” for good examples. Parodies are typically more protected under fair use than satires. Hope this helps! Tweet at us or comment on our Facebook page if you have more questions regarding this.

How original does a recipe that I post to a food blog have to be? (@catecaramel – Catherine Caramella)

Assuming your question is referring to whether or not recipes can be copyrighted, they can’t! So feel free to share away. If you’re looking to copyright your own recipes, unfortunately a mere list of ingredients that make up a recipe to not currently qualify for copyright protection under the condition of “original work of authorship.” If you disagree, you should write to your congressperson or the U.S. Copyright Office!

How can I tell if pictures on the Internet are Creative Commons or not? (Sage Livingston via Facebook)

You can always look for the ubiquitous CC symbol at the bottom of the image (creativecommons.org) or you can actually filter your google image search to only include CC images by clicking “Search Tools” in google images and then “Usage Rights”. Select the usage parameters you need and it will filter it for you. This also works on Flickr. All CC images have to link to the CC license so always look for that to be sure it really is covered. You can also find helpful image resources on our website.

Can I post one of the pictures from the LDS Media Library on my school’s Facebook account? (BYU Center for Teaching and Learning via Facebook)

All uses of LDS Media Library must comply with their terms of use, which read: “Specifically for material in the Media Library, you may post material from this site to another website or on a computer network for personal, church-related, noncommercial use unless otherwise indicated. For more information about using and sharing Church media, check out our FAQ page.” If you’re posting as an individual on Facebook then you’re probably fine since the terms allow for personal use, but posting as an institution could potentially cause problems.

If I am writing about a company, can I use their logo? Or is this not your domain at ALL (@chrissycatron – Christina Catron)

Logos are governed by trademark laws, which also have fair use. If you’re commenting on the logo then you’re probably fine.

What makes something a parody? (@jerdiggs – Jeremy Driggs)

Parody usually targets the original work, rather than using the work to make fun of something else, a la the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

I duplicated Richard Simmons cassette tapes for my in-laws. What do? (Weslie Shearer)

First of all, you should ask yourself why you’re duplicating cassette tapes :). Secondly, you need to check the market first (read: Amazon) to see if the tapes are available at a reasonable price. If so, we’d recommend purchasing those. If not, you may have a fair use case for personal, incidental copying for a family member for preservation purposes. As long as you don’t intend to distribute them any further.

Does summarizing an academic article on a blog post (no content besides the summary) fall under fair use? (Jeremy Wells)

This use would likely fall under the “comment/criticism” aspect of fair use. Just make sure you’re making a comment about the original article and that you’re only quoting an amount of the article that is necessary to conjure up your argument. No more, no less.

If I unknowingly quote something (or quote something wrong), is that still plagiarism? (Ceilidh Belnap)

Plagiarism is separate from copyright, although the two often intersect. If you unwittingly quote something and publish it for distribution (especially commercial distribution) then you may be at risk to be sued. As in all fair use cases it depends highly on your proposed use. Are you quoting something as part of comment/criticism/research/scholarship/or teaching? If so, then you’re likely fine. Just be sure and always give the courtesy of a credit.

Are YouTube videos & audio fair game? (Peter Totten)

No, sorry. Just because someone has posted something to the internet does not mean you’re allowed to freely download it. You can obviously link, but not download. The fact that you have to use a 3rd party site to download anything from a Youtube video and that Youtube itself doesn’t allow downloading gives some indication of it not being allowed.

Is Pride & Prejudice in the public domain? (Cumorah Lesher)

YES. Since the novel was published in 1813, well before the 1923 public domain cutoff, it is in the public domain and free to use by anyone for any reason. This is why you’re seeing things like the zombie version of Pride & Prejudice hitting theaters.

Are we allowed to use the name of a product freely? (Jacob Nelson)

Brands and logos are protected by trademark, not copyright, and are thus governed by a different set of laws. But in general, to avoid trademark infringement you need to be careful of false endorsement and likelihood of confusion. Basically, make sure your project doesn’t look like it’s being endorsed by the logo and that people won’t be confused between your product and the actual brand product.

What’s the worst that could happen? (Sierra Aranda)

Not to scare you, but statutory damages for copyright infringement can be up to $150K PER INFRINGEMENT. That can add up fast! Recently, a Charlotte man also went to prison for 3 years for music piracy. Yikes! Article link here – http://bit.ly/1PN8S6l

How many pages can I photocopy from a whole book? (Anonymous)

This depends on your intended use. Photocopying generally requires permission from the publisher unless you think it’s a fair use. And fair use generally protects uses for scholarship/research/comment/criticism. Yes, one of the factors of fair use is the “amount” copied but the existing idea that you can copy 10% of the work and be OK is a myth. There are 3 other factors you have to weigh to see if your use qualifies. Check out FairUse on our website for more info! http://bit.ly/21oGqMI

Are Learning Suite resources copyrighted? (Emmalee Ann Myers-Parraz)

In general, yes.

How do I know how to find public domain photos online? (Grant Callahan)

Most images published prior to 1923 are in the public domain in the U.S. So, if you know the image was taken before 1923 then you’re good to go! You can also check out our Media & Copyright resources on our website for links to public domain or creative commons images that you can use. http://bit.ly/1SRpIUD

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