In today's society, technology has improved in a very short time, allowing us to perform acts that were not previously possible, such as calling from afar on a cell phone, connecting with someone from India via the computer, or storing what would be thousands of documents into a small flash drive. Such improvements require a certain types of laws to address the appropriate role and use of this technology in society. One major area that has been a hot issue on the world wide web is the usage of easily obtainable copyrighted works (music, video, etc) on popular social sites such as YouTube, Veoh, Myspace, Facebook.
Fair use is loosely defined by a certain sets of laws encompassed by the Copyright Act of 1976, in sections 107-118. It is this set of guidelines that allow for the usage of copyrighted works without the need for permission from the copyright owner. There are 4 general factors to consider when determining if a usage is "fair use": 1) purpose of usage (Is it for commercial or non-commercial usage?), 2) nature of the copyrighted work (how will it be used?), 3) amount used (Is it a significant portion?), and 4) the effects of how it will be used on the copyrighted work (Does it degrade or lower market value of the copyrighted work?). Fair use protects the creativity and innovation that are enabled from having others sample another person's works. With today's technology, the average computer user can take a song or video clip, use a software program (such as a movie/song editor), and make something new. After all, inventions were made from using the ideas passed on from one generation to another.
[...] On the other hand, fair use allows innovation and creativity to be unhindered, thus giving users the ability to express themselves. This is a human right we all share and cherish. Taking away our creativity means the end of us being individuals, as many distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd through their abilities in the arts. If the balance shifts too much towards the copyright holders, they will have even more power over fair use. This sets us on a dangerous road. [...]
[...] Because all of the cases involving Fair Use are very similar to each other, we will be using one case and applying the three ethical principles to one case. Because the cases are similar, what you apply to one case, you are basically applying to all of the cases. The case we are going to use is Lenz v. Universal. If you recall, this case involved a woman, Stephanie Lenz, who posted a twenty nine second clip of her baby running around and dancing to a radio song in the background. [...]
[...] And since Universal is violating Lenz's legal right to use the material, Universal is also violating Lenz's human right to express herself because her freedom of expression, posting her video, was taken off which violates her human right. Remember that actions under Rights are ethical if they respect both Human and Legal Rights. But because Universal violated Lenz's Human and Legal Right, Universal's action was unethical by Principle of Rights. The last principle we will look at is The Principle of Utilitarianism. [...]
[...] In the past, several cases led to the development of more concrete rulings concerning fair use and the DMCA. One case was the well known “Betamax case.” It was Sony Corporation of America v Universal City Studios (1984). Sony developed the Betamax, a video recording format in the 1970s, which Universal City Studios believed to be a threat to copyright. They believe the Betamax would allow users to copyright infringe via recording copyrighted works via TV, illegal duplicate selling, etc. [...]
[...] Yes, she did use Prince's song as part of her clip, but fair use allows her to use anything under thirty seconds, and therefore her actions were ethical, because not only was her intent universal, but she did not use Prince as a means to share her clip. However, if you look at it from Universal's perspective, you can see that it is unethical. Like I stated before, Universal's intent was to protect their business. That is fine, but if we now apply Kant's Categorical Imperative Universal used Lenz as a means to protect their business. [...]
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