Tag Archives: copyright

a step forward for creative commons

Peter Brantley points out what’s now at http://www.whitehouse.gov/copyright/:

Pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected. The United States Government may receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

Except where otherwise noted, third-party content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to Whitehouse.gov under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Congratulations to Creative Commons: change may yet come for copyright.

anmoku no ryokai

A nice piece in this month’s Wired about “the manga industrial complex” in Japan, and the complex structure of tacitly-permitted copyright violation that powers the participatory fan culture around commercially-produced manga. Though the countless fan publications that take existing, copyrighted characters and repurpose them in new, surreal or pornographic environments are in explicit violation of copyright, the industry maintains an anmoku no ryokai (‘unspoken, implicit agreement’) to allow this culture to flourish – as it benefits everyone:

Taking care of customers. Finding new talent. Getting free market research. That’s a pretty potent trio of advantages for any business. Trouble is, to derive these advantages the manga industry must ignore the law. And this is where it gets weird. Unlike, say, an industrial company that might increase profits if it skirts environmental regulations imposed to safeguard the public interest, the manga industrial complex is ignoring a law designed to protect its own commercial interests.
This odd situation exposes the conflict between what Stanford law professor (and Wired contributor) Lawrence Lessig calls the “read only” culture and the “read/write” culture. Intellectual property laws were crafted for a read-only culture. They prohibit me from running an issue of Captain America through a Xerox DocuColor machine and selling copies on the street. The moral and business logic of this sort of restriction is unassailable. By merely photocopying someone else’s work, I’m not creating anything new. And my cheap reproductions would be unfairly harming the commercial interests of Marvel Comics.
But as Lessig and others have argued, and as the dojinshi markets amply confirm, that same copyright regime can be inadequate, and even detrimental, in a read/write culture. Amateur manga remixers aren’t merely replicating someone else’s work. They’re creating something original. And in doing so, they may well be helping, not hindering, the commercial interests of the copyright holders.

It’s interesting to speculate on whether J K Rowling’s publishers have the same attitude to the legions of fan writers busy generating Harry Potter slashfic; whether fanfic and slashfic is considered a meaningful contribution to the industries it riffs off, the way fan publications are recognised as such in the manga industry; and whether the idea of an anmoku no ryokai might be a useful addition to existing practice around copyright in a ‘read/write’ culture.

books and the man, part II (sort of)

So in my last post I compared the sentiments expressed in Pope’s Dunciad to those of Andrew Keen’s The Cult of The Amateur, and suggested some parallels between the eighteenth-century print boom and the explosion of user-generated content in web2.0. The point I wanted to make was that the model of content production championed by Keen is historically-specific and relies on an economic context where printed matter is common enough to be marketed to the general public, but still scarce enough to enable writers to make a living from selling units of content to their audiences.
I’ve been gnawing for some time at the question of what happens to creative writers – or artists in general – in a world where success of content is based not on its scarcity (the ‘high art’ model) but on ubiquity and infinite reproducibility. If copyright no longer exists, how can (already often cash-strapped) independent arts workers sell their work? And what will they do if they can’t?
So I was intrigued to come across Meta-Markets, an experiment by MIT media artist Burak Arikan, currently in beta. In this ‘marketplace’, users can ‘IPO’ shares in del.icio.us links, Feedburner feeds, Flickr profile views and the like. It’s pleasing in a surreal way to watch shares in ‘you’ going up and down – particularly as I’m trading from London and most of the others are based in NY, so the stocks go crazy at weird times of the day and night relative to me. But it also provokes some intriguing speculations around the potential to create an economic model for the arts online that is genuinely based on the internet’s drive toward reproducibility rather than scarcity.
One of Arikan’s stated aims with Meta-Markets is to explore ways in which creative types can leverage their immaterial labor as new kinds of ‘currency’ – in other words, to find a business model for trading cultural stuff online that isn’t dependent on price per copyrighted unit. And it starts some intriguing trains of thought. In order to ‘IPO’ a link, you have to have been the first to bookmark it, and at least 10 others have to have bookmarked it after you. So it requires both some minimal popularity, and also a ‘first claim’ ownership. I was irked to find, for example, that I couldn’t bookmark my own website and then sell stocks in it, because someone else already ‘owns’ that link.
So, I wondered, what if real money were involved? Supposing my website suddenly shot up the Alexa rankings, would I be in a position of watching someone else make a fortune on ‘ownership’ of my bookmarks? Or would the first thing to do after launching something online be to bookmark the URL so as to ensure you can trade on its popularity? Following that train of thought a little further, it’s possible to imagine some folksonomic inversion of the centralised copyright law taking the place of the existing system. This might then enable artists and writers to claim a fuzzy, emergent ‘ownership’ of creative online work and thus to find ways of making a living from it.
But I think that’s a long way off, if it ever happens at all. Meanwhile, we’re a long way from having any consistently viable independent revenue model for online artists, who find themselves between starvation, corporate sponsorship and the sometimes rather stodgy world of public/philanthropic arts funding. But again, maybe that’s not such a bad thing, of which more next time…

you can’t copyright copyright

The indefatigable Carl Malamud of public.resource.org today sent out a public interest letter to the U.S. Copyright Office demanding that they provide bulk access over the Internet to the catalog of copyrighted monographs, documents and serials, a resource which to date has been accessible in full only through costly subscriptions and access fees to the tune of $86,625 (currently it’s available for free only by individual record queries).

The copyright catalog of monographs, documents, and serials is not a product, it is fuel that makes the copyright system work. Anybody should be able to download the entire database to their desktop, write a better search application, or use this public domain information to research copyright questions.

It also makes the point that under U.S. copyright law, government publications are supposed to be automatically in the public domain, which makes this Library of Congress-sponsored priced access racket particularly hard to swallow. Read the full letter (co-signed by a good group including Peter Brantley and Rick Prelinger) here.
(via O’Reilly.)

books and the man i sing

I’ve been reading failed Web1.0 entrepreneur Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur. For those who haven’t hurled it out of the window already, this is a vitriolic denouncement of the ways in which Web2.0 technology is supplanting ‘expert’ cultural agents with poor-quality ‘amateur’ content, and how this is destroying our culture.
In vehemence (if, perhaps, not in eloquence), Keen’s philippic reminded me of Alexander Pope (1688-1744). Pope was one of the first writers to popularize the notion of a ‘critic’ – and also, significantly, one of the first to make an independent living through sales of his own copyrighted works. There are some intriguing similarities in their complaints.
In the Dunciad Variorum (1738), a lengthy poem responding to the recent print boom with parodies of poor writers, information overload and a babble of voices (sound familiar, anyone?) Pope writes of ‘Martinus Scriblerus’, the supposed author of the work
He lived in those days, when (after providence had permitted the Invention of Printing as a scourge for the Sins of the learned) Paper also became so cheap, and printers so numerous, that a deluge of authors cover’d the land: Whereby not only the peace of the honest unwriting subject was daily molested, but unmerciful demands were made of his applause, yea of his money, by such as would neither earn the one, or deserve the other.
The shattered ‘peace of the honest unwriting subject’, lamented by Pope in the eighteenth century when faced with a boom in printed words, is echoed by Keen when he complains that “the Web2.0 gives us is an infinitely fragmented culture in which we are hopelessly lost as to how to focus our attention and spend our limited time.” Bemoaning our gullibility, Keen wants us to return to an imagined prelapsarian state in which we dutifully consume work that has been as “professionally selected, edited and published”.
In Keen’s ideal, this selection, editing and publication ought (one presumes) to left in the hands of ‘proper’ critics – whose aesthetic in many ways still owes much to (to name but a few) Pope’s Essay On Criticism (1711), or the satirical work The Art of Sinking In Poetry (1727). But faith in these critics is collapsing. Instead, new tools that enable books to be linked give us “a hypertextual confusion of unedited, unreadable rubbish”, while publish-on-demand services swamp us in “a tidal wave of amateurish work”.
So what? you might ask. So the first explosion in the volume of published text created some of the same anxieties as this current one. But this isn’t a narrative of relentless evolutionary progress towards a utopia where everything is written, linked and searchable. The two events don’t exist on a linear trajectory; the links between Pope’s critical writings and Keen’s Canute-like protest against Web2.0 are more complex than that.
Pope’s response to the print boom was not simply to wish things could return to their previous state; rather, he popularized a critical vocabulary that both helped others to deal with it, and also – conveniently – positioned himself at the tip of the writerly hierarchy. His extensive critical writings, promoting the notions of ‘high’ and ‘low’ quality writing and lambasting the less talented, served to position Pope himself as an expert. It is no coincidence that he was one of the first writers to break free of the literary patronage model and make a living out of selling his published works. The print boom that he critiqued so scatologically was the same boom that helped him to the economic independence that enabled him to criticize as he saw fit.
But where Pope’s approach to the print boom was critical engagement, Keen offers only nostalgic blustering. Where Pope was crucial in developing a language with which to deal with the print boom, Keen wishes only to preserve Pope’s approach. So, while you can choose to read the two voices, some three centuries apart, as part of a linear evolution, it’s also possible to see them as bookends (ahem) to the beginning and end of a literary era.
This era is characterized by a conceptual and practical nexus that shackles together copyright, authorship and a homogenized discourse (or ‘common high culture’, as Keen has it), delivers it through top-down and semi-monopolistic channels, and proposes always a hierarchy therein whilst tending ever more towards proliferating mass culture. In this ecology, copyright, elitism and mass populism form inseparable aspects of the same activity: publications and, by extension, writers, all busy ‘molesting’ the ‘peace of the honest unwriting subject’ with competing demands on ‘his applause, yea [on] his money’.
The grading of writing by quality – the invention of a ‘high culture’ not merely determined by whichever ruler chose to praise a piece – is inextricable from the birth of the literary marketplace, new opportunities as a writer to turn oneself into a brand. In a word, the notion of ‘high culture’ is intimately bound up in the until-recently-uncontested economics of survival as a writer.
Again, so what? Well, if Keen is right and the new Web2.0 is undermining ‘high culture’, it is interesting to speculate whether this is the case because it is undermining writers’ established business model, or whether the business model is suffering because the ‘high’ concept is tottering. Either way, if Keen should be lambasted for anything it is not his puerile prose style, or for taking a stand against the often queasy techno-utopianism of some of Web2.0’s champions, but because he has, to date, demonstrated little of Pope’s nous in positioning himself to take advantage of the new economics of publishing.
Others have been more wily, though, in working out exactly what these economics might be. While researching this piece, I emailed Chris Anderson, Wired editor, Long Tail author, sometime sparring partner for Keen and vocal proponent of new, post-digital business models for writers. He told me that

“For what I do speaking is about 10x more lucrative than selling books […]. For me, it would make sense to give away the book to market my personal appearances, much as bands give away their music on MySpace to market their concerts. Thus the title of my next book, FREE, which we will try to give away in every way possible.”

Thus, for Anderson, there is life beyond copyright. It just doesn’t work the same way. And while Keen claims that Web2.0 is turning us into “a nation so digitally fragmented it’s no longer capable of informed debate” – or, in other words, that we have abandoned shared discourse and the respected authorities that arbitrate it in favor of a mulch of cultural white noise, it’s worth noting that Anderson is an example of an authority that has emerged from within this white noise. And who is making a decent living as such.
Anderson did acknowledge, though, that this might not apply to every kind of writer – “it’s just that my particular speaking niche is much in demand these days”. Anderson’s approach is all very well for ‘Big Ideas’ writers; but what, one wonders, is a poet supposed to do? A playwright? My previous post gives an example of just such a writer, though Doctorow’s podcast touches only briefly on the economics of fiction in a free-distribution model. I’ve argued elsewhere that ‘fiction’ is a complex concept and severely in need of a rethink in the context of the Web; my hunch is that while for nonfiction writers the Web requires an adjustment of distribution channels and little more, or creative work – stories – the implications are much more drastic.
I have this suspicion that, for poets and storytellers, the price of leaving copyright behind is that ‘high art’ goes with it. And, further, that perhaps that’s not as terrible as the Keens of this world might think. But that’s another article.

they live like aristocrats. now they think like them

is the title of a scathing critique by Marina Hyde in this morning’s Guardian, in which she takes Bono and other wealthy musicians to taks for trying to extend the copyright on recorded music in the U.K. from the current 50 years to 95. Worth a read, particularly to get a sense of how the issue of “class” which is almost never raised in mainstream U.S. publications is a crucial part of the discussion of issues like this in Europe.

an interview with bruno pellegrini

Last week I posted about Le mie elezioni, a film about the recent Italian elections constructed from footage shot by the general public, mostly part of Italy’s videoblogging community. Le mie elezioni will be released on the 15th of May: according to an article in Il manifesto more than 150 videobloggers have submitted more than 50 hours of materials which are being furiously edited right now. You can watch a rough cut of the trailer here.

res415.jpgThe footage is being put together into an hour-long film by the website Nessuno.TV a portal for Italian videobloggers, which is run by Bruno Pellegrini, who also teaches the sociology of communications at the Universitá di Architettura in Rome. I sent him an email asking about the project; while Bruno happened to be in the U.S. last week, but his (and our) travel schedule didn’t allow him to stop by the Institute. Nonetheless, we conducted an interview, via email. My questions are in bold; his responses are indented.

Can you describe how the project came about?

It was born in a very natural way, as some of the vloggers who already participated at BlogTV (the first ever TV station broadcasting user-generated content) suggested covering the election together. Then the idea of the movie came up.

Is this project part of a larger Italian web response to media consolidation? How widely do people share your belief that the perception that big media has failed to cover things it should be covering?

I do not think this project is specific to Italy. Although the situation in my country is embarrassing I believe it is only a little ahead compared to what is going on abroad. Big media has failed (sometimes deliberately) to cover things all over the world for the last decades and the web has given people a chance to re-balance the power. Whereever and whenever there are major needs for a democracy, you can be sure something is going to happen . . . With regards to people, only a small part is conscious about what is going on, and the others are not helped by mass information . . . In general there is a common sense of distrust of politics, media and power.

In the U.S., the 2004 elections brought out – for the first time – a huge number of political bloggers; this seemed to be the first time that the blogosphere registered in the mainstream media, and there’s the perception that the U.S. blogosphere exploded at that point. Have these elections done the same thing in Italy? Or did people turn to the Internet earlier?

Not at all, unfortunately. The Italian blogosphere is not as mature as it is in the U.S. We still lack a common identity and, most of all, consciousness of the power of being media . . . Hopefully this will happen in the next political campaign, and I suspect it will come out not from the classic political separation (left and right) but from an increasing fight between young and old people with the latter trying to keep their undeserved priviledges . . .

How big is the videoblogging community in Italy? We periodically look in on it in the U.S., and while everyone loves Rocketboom, it doesn’t really seem to have taken off here as much as everyone expected (although maybe things like YouTube and Google Video are changing that). Did you find people getting interested in videoblogging because of the project, or was there already a vibrant community?

Vibrant is not exactly the right word, maybe promising would be more appropriate. I think it is a matter of critical mass and once reached it will grow exponentially like all the network related trends.

The question of copyright. Watching the clips, I couldn’t help but notice the music – songs by the Arctic Monkeys & Caparezza playing in the background, as well as video clips from the news and I think a couple of press photographs. In the U.S. documentary film makers increasingly have problems with clearance issues – the owners of the songs charge thousands of dollars for the rights to use even a few seconds of them. We’ve been covering this issue of fair use rather closely because it seems to figure in many of the things you can do with multimedia. I’m curious how much of a problem it is in Italy – is this something you worry about there?

So far it is not a problem at all and we can deal with the fair use regulation. I believe the majors will play harder in the future, especially with music and movies, but there are already good open access libraries and the Creative Commons movement is getting stronger in Italy too.

Many thanks to Bruno Pellegrini for being so generous with his time. If people have more questions about this project, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section.

italian videobloggers create open source film

res6949.gifAn article in today’s La Repubblica reports that Italian videobloggers are at work creating an “open source film” about the recent election there. A website called Nessuno.TV is putting together a project called Le mie elezioni (“My Elections”). Visitors to the site were invited to submit their own short films. Director Stefano Mordini plans to weld them together into an hour-long documentary in mid-May.

a confused small childThe raw materials are already on display: they’ve acquired an enormous number of short films which provide an interesting cross section of Italian society. Among many others, Davide Preti interviews a husband and wife about their opposing views on the election. Stiletto Paradossale‘s series “That Thing Called Democracy” interviews people on the street in the small towns of Serrapetrona and Caldarola about what’s important about democracy. In a neat twist, Donne liberta di stampa interview a reporter from the BBC about what she thinks about the elections. And Robin Good asks the children what they think.

Not all the films are interviews. Maurizio Dovigi presents a self-filmed open letter to Berlusconi. ComuniCalo eschews video in “Una notta terribile!”, a slideshow of images from the long night in Rome spent waiting for results. And Luna di Velluto offers a sped-up self-portrait of her reaction to the news on that same nights.

thumbs downIt’s immediately apparent that most of these films are for the left. This isn’t an isolated occurance: the Italian left seems to have understood that the network can be a political force. In January, I noted the popularity of comic Beppe Grillo’s blog. Since then, it’s only become more popular: recent entries have averaged around 3000 comments each (this one, from four days ago, has 4123). Nor is he limiting himself to the blog: there are weekly PDF summaries of issues, MeetUp groups, and a blook/DVD combo. Compare this hyperactivity to the staid websites of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and the Silvio Berlusconi Fans Club.

The Italian left’s embrace of the Internet has partially been out of necessity: as Berlusconi owns most of the Italian media, views that counter his have been largely absent. There’s the perception that the mainstream media has stagnated, though there’s clearly a thirst for intelligent commentary: an astounding five million viewers tuned in to an appearance by Umberto Eco on TV two months ago. Bruno Pellegrini, who runs Nessuno.TV, suggests that the Internet can offer a corrective alternative:

We want to be a TV ‘made by those who watch it. A participatory TV, in which the spectators actively contribute to the construction of a palimpsest. We are riding the tendencies of the moment, using the technologies available with the lowest costs, and involving those young people who are convinced that an alternative to regular TV can be constructed, and we’re starting that.

They’re off to an impressive start, and I’ll be curious to see how far they get with this. One nagging thought: most of these videos would have copyright issues in the U.S. Many use background music that almost certainly hasn’t been cleared by the owners. Some use video clips and photos that are probably owned by the mainstream press. The dread hand of copyright enforcement isn’t as strong in Italy as it is in the U.S., but it still exists. It would be a shame if rights issues brought down such a worthy community project.

rethinking copyright: learning from the pro sports?

As Ben has reported, the Economics of Open Content conference spent a good deal of time discussing issues of copyright and fair use. During a presentation, David Pierce from Copyright Services noted that the major media companies are mainly concerned about protecting their most valuable assets. The obvious example is Disney’s extreme vested interest in protecting the Mickey Mouse, now 78 years old, from entering the public domain. Further, Pierce mentioned that these media companies fight to extend the copyright protection of everything they own in order to protect their most valuable assets. Finally, he stated that only a small portions of their total film libraries are available to consumers. Many people in attendance were intrigued by these ideas, including myself and Paul Courant from the University of Michigan. Earlier in the conference, Courant explained that 90-95% of UM’s library is out of print, and presumably much of that is under copyright protection.
If this situation is true, then, staggering amounts of media are being kept from the public domain or are closed from licensing for little or no reason. A little further thinking quickly leads to alternative structures of copyright that would move media into the public domain or at the least increase its availability, while appeasing the media conglomerates economic concerns.
Rules controlling the protection of assets is nothing new. For instance, in US professional sports, fairly elaborate structures are in place determine how players can be traded. Common sense dictates that teams cannot stockpile players from other teams. In the free agency era of the National Football League, teams have limited rights to control players from signing with other teams. Each NFL team can designate a single athlete as a “franchise” player, according to the current Collecting Bargaining Agreement with the player union. This designation gives them exclusive rights in retaining their player from competing offers. Similarly, in the National Basketball Association, when the league adds a new team, existing teams are allowed to protect eight players from being drafted and signed from the expansion team(s). What can we learn from these institutions? The examples show hoarding players is not good for sports, similarly hoarding assets is not in the best interest of the public good either.
The sports example has obviously limitations. In the NBA, team rosters are limited to fifteen players. On the other hand, a media company can hold an unlimited number of assets. In turn, applying this model would allow companies to seek extensions to only a portion of their copyright assets. Defining this proportion would certainly be difficult. For instance, it is still unclear to me how this might adapt to owners of one copyrighted property.
Another variant interpretation of this model would be to move the burden of responsibility back to the copyright holder. Here, copyright holders must show active economic use and value from these properties. This strategy would force media companies to make their archives available or put the media into the public domain. These copyright holders need to overcome their fears of flooding the markets and dated claims of limited shelf space, which are simply not relevant in the digital media / e-commerce age. Further, media companies would be encouraged to license their holdings for derivatives works, which would in fact lead to more profits. In that, these implementations would increase revenue by challenging the current shortsighted marketing decisions which fail to account for the long tail economic value of their holdings. Although these materials would not enter the public domain, they would be become accessible.
Would this block innovation? Creators of content will still be able to profit from their work for decades. When limited copyright did exist in its original implementation, creative innovation was certainly not hindered. Therefore, the argument that limiting protection of all of a media company’s assets in perpetuity would slow innovation is baseless. By the end of the current time copyright period, holders have ample time to extract value from those assets. In fact, infinite copyright protection slows innovation by removing incentives to create new intellectual property.
Finally, few last comments are worth noting. These models are, at best, compromises. I present them because the current state of copyright protection and extensions seems headed towards former Motion Pictures Association of America President Jack Valenti’s now infamous suggestion of extending copyright to “forever less a day.” Although these media companies have a huge financial stake in controlling these copyrights, I cannot overemphasize our Constitutional right to place these materials in the public domain. Article I, Section 8, clause 8 of the United States Constitution states:

Congress has the power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Rights to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Under these proposed schemes, fair use becomes even more cruical. Conceding that the extraordinary preciousness of intellectual property as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny supersedes rights found in our Constitution implies a similarly extraordinary importance of these properties to our culture and society. Thus, democratic access to these properties for use in education and critical discourse must be equally imperative to the progress of culture and society. In the end, the choice, as a society, is ours. We do not need to concede anything.

lessig in second life

Wednesday evening, I attended an interview with Larry Lessig, which took place in the virtual world of Second Life. New World Notes announced the event and is posting coverage and transcripts of the interview. As it was my first experience in SL, I will post more on the experience of attending an interview/ lecture in a virtual space. For now, I am going to comment upon two quotes that Lessig covered as it relates to our work at the institute.

Lawrence Lessig: Because as life moves online we should have the SAME FREEDOMS (at least) that we had in real life. There’s no doubt that in real life you could act out a movie or a different ending to a movie. There’s no doubt that would have been “free” of copyright in real life. But as we move online things that were before were free now are regulated.

Yesterday, Bob made the point that our memories increasingly exist outside of ourselves. At the institute, we have discussed the mediated life, and a substantial part of that mediation occurs as we continue to digitize more parts of our lives, from photo albums to diaries. Things we once created in the physical world now reside on the network, which means that it is being published. Photo albums documenting our trips to Disneyland or the Space Needle (whose facade is trademarked and protected) that one rested within the home, are uploaded to flickr, potentially accessible to anyone browsing the Internet, a regulated space. This regulation has enormous influence on the creative outlets of everyone, not just professionals. Without trying to sound overly naive, my concern is not just that speech and discourse of all people are being compromised. As companies become more litigious towards copyright infringement (especially when their arguments are weak), the safe guards of the courts and legislation are not protecting its constituents.

Lawrence Lessig: Copyright is about creating incentives. Incentives are prospective. No matter what even the US Congress does, it will not give Elvis any more incentive to create in 1954. So whatever the length of copyright should be prospectively, we know it can make no sense of incentives to extend the term for work that is already created.

The increasing accessibility of digital technology allows people to become creators and distributors of content. Lessig notes that with each year, the increasing evidence from cases such as the Google Book Search controversy show the inadequacy of current copyright legislation. Further, he insightfully suggests to learn from the creations that young people produce such as anime music videos. Their completely different approach to intellectual property informs the cultural shift that is running counter to the legal status quo. Lessig suggest that these creative works have the potential to inform policy makers that these attitudes are moving toward the original intentions of copyright law. Then, policy makers hopefully may begin to question why these works are currently considered illegal.
The courts’ failure to clearly define an interpretation of fair use puts at risk the discourse that a functioning democracy requires. The stringent attitudes towards using copyrighted material goes against the spirit of the original intentions of the law. Although, it may not be a role of the government and the courts to actively encourage creativity. It is sad that bipartisan government actions and courts rulings actively discourage innovation and creativity.