On the serious side, I wish there were some clear guidelines about what exactly is fair use in the nonprofit space.
TechSoup recently published a FAQ about "Borrowing Images from the Web. There is some advice on fair use:
Don't I get to reprint an image without permission under the "fair use" doctrine?
While "fair use" is a somewhat nebulous term — and subject to interpretation — it refers to the things you can do with an image without permission. In general, it may be considered fair use if you are reproducing a work for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
Note, however, that if you reprint a work and if the copyright is called into question, the burden will fall on you to prove that you "believed and had reasonable grounds for believing that [your] use of the copyrighted work was a fair use," according to the U.S. Copyright Office. The U.S. Copyright Office notes that the factors that help determine whether use of a work constitutes fair use include:
- The purpose of the work, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
- The nature of the copyrighted work.
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Keep in mind that penalties for knowingly violating U.S. copyright laws can be severe; if you have any question as to whether something constitutes fair use, err on the side of caution and double-check with the copyright owner or consult an attorney.
My approach has been to stick with Creative Commons licensed Share Alike 2.5 licenses. There are amazing photos in flickr and wonderful music in ccmixter.org
During the Webinar with Michael Hughes of See3, the question of fair use came up, specifically around the mashup that was made to promote NTEN video content. Specifically, since the mashup uses clips from a copyrighted Frank Capra film, is this a copyright violation or an example of fair use? NTEN
is in a great position to connect nonprofit technologists with legal copyright/fair use SME's on this issue and helping nonprofits technologists navigate the world of Fair Use and Copyright Laws.
A few resources to explore, including the Fair Use Network via the Museum Computer Network (btw, the museum world is very on top of copyright/fair use issues. Michael Hughes also mentions the Center for Social Media as a good resource.