Fair-use of copyrighted material

I’ve been censored by David Bloomberg for posting 90% of a seven-month old news service article over in the Great Debates forum.

Could someone please specifically explain or define “fair-use” and give me a rule of thumb to go by? First I was told that I can’t post 100% of something copyrighted, now I find that even less than 100% is verboten.

Help me please. David loves to censor people that don’t think like him anyway, but I’d like to irritate him with my views within the scope of the law.

Contestant #3

US Copyright Law - Sect. 107: Fair Use
HEAD Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

STATUTE Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair
use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by
that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use),
scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. 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
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the
above factors.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Ok, now I’m confused. If C3 got in trouble for posting 90% of a seven-month-old news article, why didn’t anyone say anything to me about the 2 entire (and less that a day old) articles I c&p’d from the Houston Chronicle’s website? Was there some major difference between our posts? David?

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
– Henry David Thoreau

Cessandra, sometimes moderators, being humans, make mistakes, or miss something, y’know? Just because we make a mistake once, I don’t think that means that we have to keep repeating the same mistake over and over. I don’t know when you made that post, and who was moderating. For awhile there there were way too manny posts and far too few moderators to stay on top of it all. That’s changed.

We didn’t make the laws, y’know. But we’d like to not get bitten in the butt by them because of some [deleted] who thinks they are above the law.

I remind all again that when you registered to be on this board you agreed that you would not post copyrighted material unless you were the holder of the copyright.


I’m a woman phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me
(Maya Angelou)

This is almost comical. Melin says:

“I remind all again that when you registered to be on this board you agreed that you would not post copyrighted material unless you were the holder of the copyright.”

Then she signs off on 202 posts with the following copyrighted material that she preaches about:

I’m a woman phenomenally
Phenomenal woman
That’s me
(Maya Angelou)

I feel it say to say that Melin DOES NOT hold the copyright to those words. She stole them from a book that is currently for sale.

You see, the real point here is that we punish those who do not think as we do while turning our heads to our own indiscretions or the violations of those holding the same viewpoint.

If she really is a lawyer, I’m not impressed…must have been an affirmative action hiree.

Contestant #3

C#3 - are you sure you’re not being censored for being a jerk?

I feel your whole last post was completely uncalled for.

Contestant #3 -

Your gratuitous personal attacks on our gentle readers and administrative personnel are not fit for publication on the SDMB. Cease and desist immediately.

This warning will not be repeated.

For The Straight Dope

Okay, so c#3 is being a complete jerk. He owes Melin a big apology, that I doubt he’ll be big enough to give.
But he still has a point about copyright.

According to the copyright law given by Jophiel, “[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work… for purposes such as… news reporting… is not an infringement of copyright.” Examining the 4 factors make it even more clear that it’s not a copyright violation.

On the other hand, Melin’s quote by Maya Angelou isn’t “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… , scholarship, or research”. But everybody has quotes in their sigs.

So any enforcement by a moderator has to be fairly subjective. If I say “To be or not to be”, or “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”, or “Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”, I don’t own the copyright. So is htis allowed?


By way of explanation, we have had some difficulty in the past few weeks… the moderators were overworked, with two moderators handling five forums. In addition, one of our outstanding moderators had to cut back on his time for personal reasons. It is therefore possible, indeed likely, that moderators were not paying close attention.

We have now extended the moderating staff, effectively each moderator responsible for one forum. We hope to do better.

Even so, we can’t be everywhere all at once. I try to look at my forum at least once a day, but that isn’t always possible. We rely upon you-all to notify us of potential violations; we rely on each other ditto ditto.

We are essentially moderating for two things:

  • potential legal ramifications (such as use of copyright material or other issues that have possible legal consequences)
  • basic good manners (language, ad hominem insults, etc.)

Some of the questions are subjective, of course, and we try to lean in favor of openness and expression, but the goal is to make the boards enjoyable for everyone. If we can’t make them enjoyable for everyone, we’ll tend to favor making them enjoyable for as many as possible, and unenjoyable for as few as possible. That seems only reasonable.

#3 says: << I’ve been censored by David Bloomberg for posting 90% of a seven-month old news service article >>

Hmm. Actually, no, #3, you weren’t censored… your quoted material was partly excised. There is a difference.

Everybody does not have “quotes in their sigs”.

Of course any determination by a moderator what constitutes “fair use” will be subjective - humans are incapable of pure objectivity on any subject. But that does not mean we don’t understand the meaning of the term or the laws that apply to it. Simple common sense and decency (as well as a cursory perusal of the numerous web sites dedicated to the subjects of intellectual property and the theft thereof) should easily well-verse a layman in the ethics of quoting sources verbatim, with or without proper citation. Be that as it may, it is the moderator’s job to be vigilant and protect the interests of the Straight Dope and The Chicago Reader et al by applying a carefully considered subjective opinion as to what does and does not pass muster.

Originality does not consist of concealing your sources. Quoting great heaping gobs of another’s intellectual property without proper attributes, citations or provenance will not fly in the GQ Forum or on The SDMB in general. For that matter, quoting great heaping gobs of anything will be viewed with jaundiced eye. Providing a link to existing material on another (legitimate source of, or copyright holder for the property in question) server is one thoughtful way to avoid these conflicts.
Digesting the material and excreting it in your own words is another.

I cannot help but think that with the high level of intelligence and creativity displayed hereabouts, our Gentle Readers should be able to avoid such idiotic pitfalls as copyright violation and/or reprimands by moderators for failing to follow the rule of law or common sense or both.

For The Straight Dope

So, back to the original question, somewhat. I work for a tutoring company, and we have been wondering about the implications of using 5-7 paragraphs of some random passage or book or article to tutor the critical reading portion of the SAT.

The part of the copyright law quoted above says “teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use).” That sounds like us. Any copyright lawyers out there with any advice?

P.S. If we’re all going to get into a lather about the quotes in the sigs around here, then we’d also better go up to the band at the next nightclub or open party we’re at, and insist on seeing proof of payment of songwriter royalties for all the covers that were just performed. Any public reproduction of a copyrighted musicwork must pay royalities, which is why you’ll never hear regular radio over the speakers in a major chain store like Taco Bell, etc. They always hire Muzak or its competitor for a music feed, who also pays ASCAP or BMI.

First: It’s nice to see Nick and others warn me for my insults while ignoring insults hurled at me.

Second: It’s nice to see Quadell’s point ignored. How convenient for you all. Q’s right. My point about Melin’s stolen quote from a book (and posted 202 times)that is currently for sale is valid. This is copyright infringment.

On the other hand, a news reporting article, seven months old, with no commercial value, attributed to the source (Reuters) and copied at 90% is valid.

I am right. They are wrong, but hey, they control the board so we can’t exactly expect fairness can we?

Contestant #3

Everyone please stop hurling insults at Contestant #3. This warning will not be repeated, either.

For The Straight Dope

No. Many authors begin a chapter with a
pithy quote from something not always in the
public domain. Their publishers, who have reason to be picky about copyright, let it pass.

90% is a bit too much…for fair use, it would seem.

Plus, it’s correct that if a person uses however small a quote in a book they must call the person or agent to get permission to use it. Newspapers & books do this–but they don’t have to show that they do it. If you write a book with a lot of quotes, you can be calling a lot of people. SOmetimes you have to pay them to use it.

So, in effect if you wanted to use the phenomenal woman quote in a book, you would absolutely have to call to get permission to do so. duh.

You should here too, but then no one is going to call the Copyright police.

Well, I was going to stay out of this, but I have to admit that Contestant #3’s most recent message was simply so outrageous I found it necessary to respond.

Get real. He posted the message 2 hours ago. Some people here who could give answers just might have other things to do in their lives. But you obviously never considered that.

According to who? You? Do you actually have any evidence to back up this claim, or are you just lashing out at her because she showed you up? I’m betting on the latter. But I had a few minutes and did a check on the web for some copyright stuff. I found a page on copyright law and fair use at Stanford. Here is the appropriate portion relating to the quotes many use in their sigs: “In general, when other criteria are met, the copying of extracts that are ‘not substantial in length’ when compared to the whole of which they are part may be considered fair use.” In other words, quoting one line out of a book isn’t going to violate copyright law. Quoting 90% of an article is.

Just curious: What color is the sky in your world?

“If your self-worth comes from being at the center of the Universe, then science will make you uncomfortable. If your self-worth comes from other things, then science won’t bother you.” – Carl Sagan

Gentlemen, PLEASE.

This argument has become otherworldly. The emotional level has ratcheted up to the point I believe this belongs in the Pit. (Sorry, Lynn, I’m passing you a hot potato).

I have stated my opinions as they concern the GQ forum. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me for further clarification.

For The Straight Dope