[I]t is time to recognize a simpler principle for fair use: work that adds to the value of the original, as opposed to substituting for the original, is fair use. In my view that’s a principle already behind the traditional lines: no one (well, nearly no one) would watch Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs” as a substitute for “Star Wars”; a book review is no substitute for reading “The Naked and the Dead.” They are complements to the original work, not substitutes, and that makes all the difference.
This simple concept would bring much clarity to the problems of secondary authorship on the web. Fan guides like the Harry Potter Lexicon or Lostpedia are not substitutes for reading the book or watching the show, and that should be the end of the legal questions surrounding them. The same goes for reasonable tribute videos like this great Guyz Nite tribute to “Die Hard.” On the other hand, its obviously not fair use to scan a book and put it online, or distribute copyrighted films using BitTorent.
We must never forget that copyright is about authorship; and secondary authors, while never as famous as the original authors, deserve some respect. Fixing fair use is one way to give them that.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Defining 'Fair Use'