What is Fair Use?

Does anyone know what fair use really is? Sure there are definitions…

Does anyone know what fair use really is? Sure there are definitions which say that it is a “concept” or a “provision” or “guidelines” but what does it really come down to?

To me (and I’m guessing others) it comes down to a simple question. Am I going to get sued? Really. That’s it. I mean, there are corporations with lawyers who spend more on dinner than I spend on groceries in a month, and those are the folks who will try to relieve me of all of my money if I upset them by “fairly using” something. I don’t have lawyers, or deep pockets, or time/money/resources for a trial, even if I was guaranteed to win. It’s a sad but true fact that “Justice for all who can afford it” is the standard of the day in the U.S.

I know there is the EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers which I’ll have to read through a bit more, but still, I tend to weigh things by the “will I get sued” question. Luckily, Creative Commons goes a loooong way towards helping me know what I can use, and how I can use it. But for stuff that isn’t clearly licensed? Well, more than once I’ve asked permissions to use something and I’ve got it. The hard part here is knowing who to ask… Emailing someone who puts photos, videos, or music on their web site isn’t that hard, but contacting a major publishing company, music studio or record label? Forget it…

And we definitely need to spread the word of what a Creative Commons license means. On tinkernet’s about page I have the following:

The videos from this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License unless otherwise noted.

Creative Commons - Some Rights Reserved

If you’d like to use my work under some other license, feel free to contact me.

I think that’s pretty straightforward eh? I got an email from someone asking if my Zombie Lurch video could be shown at a Halloween event that was not charging for admission. I said “no problem” and pointed to the Creative Commons by-nc-sa license explaining that they probably didn’t even have to ask my permission to show it (since I’d already given it with the license) and if they had wanted to charged admission (which might fall under using my work commercially) I would have the right to license it to them under other terms. That’s the other nice thing, I get to choose how my work is licensed to who, for what. You want to make money off my work? No problem! Just talk to me and make sure I get a cut too… ;)

Now, as for “fair use” I still am not clear on exactly what that is…