Google Books (http://www.books.google.com) provides access to digitized copies of books. Google scans and indexes the books, making them searchable online. This greatly enhances access to information – from anywhere on the planet.
Is this “copyright infringement” or “fair use” in the digital age?
The lawsuit against Google has been winding its way through the courts since 2005.
In March 2011, a proposed settlement was rejected by Federal Judge Chin, apparently because of the number of parties that objected to the terms of the settlement, the fact that it was an “opt-out” (rather than an “opt-in”) settlement and included a “forward looking business model” that benefited Google. For a readable explanation of the situation, see: “A Guide For the Perplexed Part IV: The Rejection of the Google Books Settlement” by Jonathan Bond http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/guideiv-final-1.pdf
While the Court and the parties SLOWLY ponder what’s next, the rest of us have to continue to do business.
So here’s a quick recap about the current state of copyright:
Copyright protects the way an author expresses him/herself, not the ideas expressed.
“Fair use” is when you can use copyright protected material (such as text, photographs, illustrations, videos) without payment or permission. Penalties for copyright infringement are severe. http://www.researchcopyright.com/article-penalties-for-copyright-infringement.php
With all the information available online, it’s important to understand what you can use without fear of copyright infringement claims.
(1) If in “public domain” – you can use the content freely.
Determining what is in the public domain can be difficult. http://www.smartfast.com/blog/?s=public+domain
(2) If in “copyright” – you can use within the “fair use” doctrine.
Determining what use is “fair use” is complicated. http://www.smartfast.com/blog/what-is-fair-use
(3) Scan & Snippet display – displaying a small portion of the text, or image. This is the approach that Google uses – and it has not yet been decided by the Court whether this is “fair use.”
(4) Linking – The linking strategy described below seems to fit within the fair use criteria as understood in the U.S.
This link is to updated Fair Use Guidelines for Educators – Code of Best Practices for Fair Use for Online Video, prepared by the Center for Social Media –http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/related-materials/codes/code-best-practices-fair-use-media-literacy-education
(5) Creative Commons License – use is allowed as defined by the copyright owner – so you have to check the requirements for each work used. http://creativecommons.org/
(6) Open source – access to software allowed consistent with guidelines. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_software
Yes, it is complicated!
Until there is further clarification of copyright law from the Courts or the Congress, here’s what I recommend:
- If you use a copyright work without permission, I recommend documenting the rationale for why your use is “fair” – you’ll want to quote accurately and briefly, cite the source, and add value by building on – not just copying, but commenting on or criticizing the work.
- If you use content under a license, check the license terms carefully.
- If your use is extensive, it’s wise to get permission from the copyright owner, in writing.
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