Life is a Mystery

29 January 2005 . Comments Off on Eyes Update

Eyes Update

Downhill Battle has taken down its bittorrent links to Eyes on the Prize at the request of Blackside (the producer) lawyers. No surprise there. Still leaves the questions of fair use open.

29 January 2005 . 2 Comments

Fair Use?

I’ve been thinking about the Eyes on the Prize distribution some more. I’d called it “stealing” and “clearly illegal” in my prior post and comments (since edited). That was inconsiderate. Let’s consider the case more carefully. The claim made by Downhill Battle is that copying Eyes on the Prize for the purpose of showing it at screenings on 2/8 is fair use. Fair use must be evaluated by four factors, lets look at the four factors with regard to this case. Remember, I am not a lawyer. I am not even an expert in copyright. I’m just doing this exercise to help with my own thinking. Your milage may vary!

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;In this case the copies are being made for showing during Black History Month and to illuminate the tensions between copyright and the transmission of culture. As long as these copies are used only for such non-profit educational purposes, I think there is likely to be a reasonable for fair use on this factor.Note that the use is not “transformational”. While the screenings at which the documentary is presented may create a critical context that changes its role (a conversation about copyright in addition to the lessons of civil rights), this new context does not seem to me to really transform the work. As a result, I would not anticipate a slam-dunk case for fair use on the first factor.

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

Eyes on the Prize is a television miniseries documentary. The courts seem to treat fact-based material more generously w/r/t fair use than fictional material. This is clearly factual material. On the other hand I think visual material, like TV or film, tend to get more protection than some printed works. This may be a wash or it may lean very slightly toward fair use.

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

Well, we are being asked to copy the whole show. In fact, each episode of the show is probably to be considered a complete work. I think this factor clearly tilts against fair use.

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Now this gets interesting. Since the producers and PBS are no longer selling copies of the series, is there a market at all? They claim to be working on re-securing the rights they need to distribute the work, and if they succeed there should be a decent market for the DVD or other distribution. Even so, does the mp4 distribution really take away from that market potential? I think a case could be made that this distribution and the publicity and screenings surrounding it will increase the market for this series, should it ever be distributed officially again. I know I am now interested in buying a copy, when I’d forgotten about the series before all this. In my mind this factor leans toward fair use.Hm. Factors (1) and (4) tilt toward fair use, factor (3) tilts against fair use, factor (2) may be a wash, but slightly toward fair use in my estimation. That adds up, in my view, to fair use! Downhill Battle has a point.Now, this is not a legal ruling in any sense, and you have to do you own analysis of the factors before making your own decision. And document your own decision in case you are ever called to defend it in a court.

27 January 2005 . 2 Comments


An interesting day of copyright today. Kenneth Crews is with us in Minnesota and gave a great workshop for our staff today (faculty get a taste tomorrow). And when I got home I found Mary excited about a project at Downhill Battle to encourage people to copy Eyes on the Prize. This classic documentary about the civil rights movement of the 1960’s is not in legal distribution because the rights granted for the clips used have expired and new rights have not been cleared yet by the production company. Civil disobedience over copyright issues. Interesting times.So it may be a bit much to ask the Libraries to get on the criminal side of a copyright issue, but what if Libraries around the country (and ours in particular) took part in the Downhill Battle 2/8 Black History Month event to host public showings of episodes of the documentary? Of course, we would not show the illegally downloaded versions from the net, but the legal copies from our collections. The discussion fostered, though, could still be about the difficulty of preserving critical pieces of culture in an era of tough copyright enforcement.

25 January 2005 . Comments Off on RLG Guidelines for CMI

RLG Guidelines for CMI

The RLG has released new guidelines for their Cultural Materials Initiative. Note the extremely slim descriptive requirements: creator, type, title, date, id, and pointer. It appears that a record would be acceptable with just a unique id, a work type, and a pointer to a surrogate if the creator, title, and date were not known. There are other elements to the "value-added" and "bonus" segments of the "core fields," but the admission seems to be that thorough metadata is very hard to get.

15 January 2005 . Comments Off on Google Print

Google Print

It can be less than trivial to find you way into the Google print environment, since you need to know the id numbers of actual books.I just found this blog post from a month ago that provides links to several titles so that you can explore a bit. Just in case that site goes away, here is one out of copyright work and one still in copyright example.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /