Category Archives: Issues

Demystifying Fair Use: Our New Guide, FAQs, and More!

Posted December 7, 2017

Fair use, as many of our readers know, can be a tricky concept to pin down. What exactly does fair use mean? What makes it such an important part of U.S. copyright law? What are the “four factors” that courts consider when evaluating claims of fair use? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how does fair use support authors’ research, writing, and publishing goals?

Authors who want to incorporate source materials with confidence, while also respecting copyright and the integrity of their fellow creators, may find themselves faced with more questions than answers. Fortunately, help is at hand!

Cover of the Fair Use Guide for Nonfiction AuthorsAuthors Alliance released a brand-new guide to Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors last week. Although the guide was designed around the needs of nonfiction authors, much of the information applies to authors across disciplines. After all, many questions and misconceptions about fair use overlap regardless of genre. The FAQ section of the guide addresses some common questions, such as:

  • Can I still claim fair use if I am using copyrighted material that is highly creative?
  • What if I want to use copyrighted material for commercial purposes?
  • Does fair use apply to copyrighted material that is unpublished?

Learn the answers to these and other fair use questions at our new Fair Use Resources page. While you’re there, you can also download a PDF version of the guide. A print edition is forthcoming in February 2018, and Authors Alliance members can sign up for the pre-order list by emailing us at info@authorsalliance.org.

If you’re not yet a member, we encourage you to join today! And if you value this and other Authors Alliance resources, please consider a donation to support our 2017 gift campaign.

Announcing the Authors Alliance Guide to Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors

Posted November 29, 2017

Cover of Fair Use for Nonfiction AuthorsWe are pleased to announce the release of our brand-new guide to Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors! The guide is designed to empower authors to exercise their right to use source materials to further their research and writing goals by helping them to make confident fair use decisions. This new guide is the latest addition to our growing library of resource books for authors, which includes educational guides for rights reversion and open access.

Inspired by the work of Peter Jaszi and Patricia Aufderheide at the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University, this guide focuses on best practices for nonfiction authors—from biographers to science writers, historians to literary critics, memoirists to academics, and beyond—who depend on the use of copyrighted materials in their work.

The guide will help nonfiction authors who want to do things like:

  • Include song lyrics in an academic paper discussing musical trends;
  • Quote from a novel to analyze the author’s use of metaphors in a work of literary criticism;
  • Incorporate a photograph in an article about the photographer’s use of light and shadow;
  • Use a chart in a scientific paper critiquing a researcher’s methodology and findings; or
  • Quote from unpublished letters in a memoir.

The guide addresses three common situations faced by nonfiction authors in which fair use may apply: 1) criticizing, discussing, or commenting on copyrighted material; 2) using copyrighted material to support a point made in the author’s work; and 3) using copyrighted material for non-consumptive research.  It also addresses the most frequently asked questions about fair use and clears up some common misconceptions about when it might apply.

We thank Rob Walker and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law for their help in researching and drafting the guide, which features extensive input from nonfiction authors, copyright experts, and partner organizations. The guide has also been endorsed by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Association for Information Science and Technology.

Download the guide and learn more about fair use at our new Fair Use resource page. And, if you have any fair use questions or experiences to share with us, please get in touch at info@authorsalliance.org.

 

DMCA Exemptions: We Want To Hear From You

Posted November 21, 2017
photo of CD with padlock

photo by 422737 |CC0

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is hurting authors’ ability to make fair use.

But you can help by taking 5 minutes to fill out this short survey.

The problem: The DMCA makes it illegal to rip from DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and many other encrypted technologies, and this restriction is blocking authors’ ability to make fair use. This causes serious harm to authorship in the digital environment. Why? Because even though fair use allows authors to use copyrighted video in their e-books in certain situations, the DMCA restricts authors’ access to such material.

What we are doing about it: Fortunately, the law allows for a triennial rulemaking process where the Copyright Office can recommend exemptions for authors to access the works they need. There is an exemption currently in effect—but it only applies to nonfiction multimedia e-books offering film analysis. That’s why Authors Alliance and other organizations are fighting for a modified exemption that will allow all authors of e-books to access the clips they need from DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and digital streaming services.

How you can help: The Copyright Office places a heavy emphasis on stories from authors who have been harmed by the DMCA in the past or are likely to be harmed by the DMCA in the future. Please CLICK HERE TO SHARE YOUR STORIES.

Want to learn more: Click here to learn more about our petition.

 

Making In-Copyright Works Open Access:
A Report From Iceland

Posted November 15, 2017
Typewriter with Icelandic keyboard

Photo by Rob McKaughan | CC BY-NC-SA

The island nation of Iceland—about the size of Virginia, and with a population of around 300,000—might be one of the smallest in the world, but it enjoys a robust influence on literature and culture that’s out of all proportion with its size. Thanks to a long tradition of universal literacy, a booming publishing industry, and an enthusiastic reading public, Iceland is home to a great many authors, some of whom are eager to make their books available online.

To help address this need, Professor Ian Watson of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology undertook a project to help some of these authors release their out-of-print books online under Creative Commons licenses. His article, “Assisting Living Authors in Opening Access to Their In-Copyright Works: A Report From Iceland,” details his experience with author-by-author rights clearance. Watson worked with authors to digitize their books (if they were not already part of Google Books) and ensure that their permissions status in HathiTrust was fully open. Watson’s results were successful overall, with 31 of 36 authors responding favorably to the idea of opening their works. Ultimately, 28  works were made newly available online. (The difficulties that did arise were most often bureaucratic or technological, rather than the result of unwillingness by authors or publishers to cooperate.)

Head shot of Ian Watson

Authors Alliance: You are a longtime advocate for open access, as well as the former editor of an OA journal [Bifröst Journal of Social Science]. How did you first become interested in OA?  What do you see as its main benefits?

Ian Watson: I got interested in open access in 2008, originally because I saw that it was the best way to publish written work by scholars at the university in Iceland where I was working. The university wanted to start a journal to help its employees get their research published. If we had held their work back and given it out only to those willing to pay for a paper copy, very few people would have ever read what they wrote, and administering payments and subscriptions would have taken hours of work. I offered to set up an open-access website for the journal using OJS, in addition to printing a few paper copies. This appealed to our open-minded rector. Later on, I also realized that open access was the right approach for many books and monographs in Iceland.

AuAll: How do you view the current state of OA? What changes have you observed over the years? What would you like to see in the future of OA publishing?

IW: Open access is well accepted and supported these days, and that’s wonderful. Still, too much new scholarship is being published behind toll barriers. Too many books and papers are still published in the old guard of high-prestige, toll-access presses and journals.

The rise of sites like SciHub that circumvent the existing legal framework signal that the market for scholarly journal articles is not yet in equilibrium; in the long run, I think it will just be very hard to sustain charging high prices for things that have a zero marginal cost. Just as users have long used public and university libraries for free, I think it’s inevitable that digital libraries will tend towards being free too.

It’s tremendously important to get the word out to authors that they can change the rights status of their work. At the same time, open-access advocates should be comfortable with the fact that there are many books that are still written to be sold and to make money, and that’s OK.

AuAll: You found that the majority of the authors that you contacted wanted to open up access to their works.  Why do you think these authors were enthusiastic about making their works newly available online?

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The “Sonny Bono Memorial Collection” and U.S. Copyright Terms

Posted November 7, 2017
Page spread from The Dictionary of American Slang

A Dictionary of American Slang, 1926 – One of the books in the Internet Archive’s new Sonny Bono Memorial Collection

Last month, the Internet Archive announced the launch of the “Sonny Bono Memorial Collection,” a set of digitized full-text books published in the U.S. between 1923 and 1941. The collection takes advantage of an obscure section of U.S. copyright law, section 108(h), which allows libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, and display books that are in the last twenty years of copyright, provided that the work is neither obtainable at a reasonable price nor being commercially exploited.

The provision was included in the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended U.S. copyright terms for works by individual authors by twenty years.  CTEA resulted in a twenty year delay in some works entering the public domain: Works that were protected by copyright at the time the CTEA passed will not enter the public domain until 2019 or later. (The legislation is also known as the Sonny Bono Act because of Bono’s support of longer copyright terms during his tenure in the House of Representatives.)

The term extension had the effect of locking away countless works that would have been eligible to enter the public domain just as the promise of digitization and online access was beginning to emerge. Section 108(h) was added as a safety-valve to help ensure that the extended copyright term did not restrict public access to commercially unavailable works, providing a limitation on copyright that allows libraries and archives to rescue these works and make them available for research, scholarship, and preservation.

While section 108(h) allows for a step in the right direction, it’s not a cure-all. Determining a work’s eligibility is time-consuming and labor-intensive, and there are a number of variables to consider. But thanks to automation, the Internet Archive plans to add thousands of volumes to the collection. Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard’s new paper gives libraries and archives guidance on how to implement section 108(h).

If your books are not eligible for inclusion in 108(h) collections, but you would like to see them freely available online, Authors Alliance can help.  Our rights reversion and termination of transfer resources provide strategies you can use to regain your rights in order to make them newly available. And together with Internet Archive, Authors Alliance can even help you to scan previously undigitized works to add them to our online collection just ask!

We hope that the Internet Archive’s leadership in implementing 108(h) inspires other libraries to create more “Last Twenty” collections and gives a second life to previously unavailable books.

Policy Update: DMCA Exemptions and Advocacy

Posted November 2, 2017

Since our founding, Authors Alliance has been tracking developments around Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Every three years, the Copyright Office can adopt temporary exemptions to Section 1201’s prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. In 2016, we advocated for a streamlined, less burdensome rulemaking process in order to protect the fair uses of copyrighted works. And in August, we petitioned to renew an exemption that allows for the use of film clips in multimedia ebooks.

Beginning with this rulemaking, the Office did adopt a streamlined procedure for renewing exemptions granted during previous rulemaking sessions, with the goal of making the triennial process more efficient and less repetitious. We are pleased to report that the Copyright Office announced last week that it is recommending the renewal of all the exemptions granted in the previous rulemaking session of 2015—welcome news for authors, critics, scholars, and all who support fair uses of copyrighted content.

We applaud the Copyright Office adopting common-sense improvements to encourage a smoother path for renewals and for recommending the re-adoption of all existing exemptions.

Our work on this issue is ongoing. In September, we filed a new petition, which requests the following:

  • Lawful circumvention of DRM for use in fiction multimedia e-books (the current exemption is restricted to nonfiction multimedia e-books);
  • Allowing circumvention of DRM for use in multimedia e-books on other subjects besides film analysis (the current exemption allows for uses in film analysis only); and
  • Removing limitations that refer to screen-capture technology.

In December, Authors Alliance—with legal assistance from the UC Irvine and the University of Colorado, Boulder and joined by other like-minded organizations—will submit a new round of comments in support of these additional exemptions to the Register of Copyrights as part of the seventh annual triennial rulemaking process for 2018, with the goal of building on the success of our previous efforts. We will continue to track this issue closely, and will provide updates on our comments and the eventual response from the Copyright Office, expected in the spring of 2018.

Who Owns the Termination of Transfer Right?

Posted November 1, 2017

We would like to thank R. Anthony Reese, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UC Irvine, for contributing the following post.

Head shot of R. Anthony ReeseU.S. copyright law gives an author the right, under certain conditions, to terminate a copyright transfer or license that the author granted decades earlier, as Lydia Loren’s earlier post explained. This termination right must be exercised within a specific time, and the formal termination process can’t begin until 25 years after the author executes the grant.

Given this long delay, who can terminate if the author dies before the time for termination arrives? The basic answer is fairly straightforward. If the deceased author left only a surviving spouse (whom the statute names as the author’s “widow or widower”), then the spouse can exercise the termination right. If the deceased author left only surviving kids, then the kids can exercise the termination right. If the author left a surviving spouse and kids, then the spouse and kids share the termination right. (Other situations are more complicated: if the author left any surviving grandkids of a deceased child, those grandkids get to share in the termination right as well.) Only if the author left no surviving spouse, kids, or grandkids does the author’s will (or the law of intestate succession) determine who owns the termination right.

This aspect of termination has always created problems for gay and lesbian authors with same-sex partners. Because the termination right belongs to a deceased author’s “widow or widower,” copyright law must determine who qualifies as the author’s spouse. In doing so, copyright law has treated gay and lesbian authors with same-sex partners less favorably than authors with different-sex partners ever since the copyright act first allowed termination in 1978.

The statute defines an author’s “widow” or “widower,” using facially neutral language, as “the author’s surviving spouse under the law of the author’s domicile at the time of his or her death.” 17 U.S.C. § 101. This definition doesn’t expressly distinguish between same-sex and different-sex spouses. In practice, though, in deciding which marriages copyright law will recognize, this definition has always treated authors with same-sex partners unequally, because it incorporates unequal treatment embedded in state law, in federal non-copyright law, and in foreign law.

An author’s widow or widower for copyright termination purposes is the author’s surviving spouse under the law of the deceased author’s domicile. In the U.S., the author’s place of domicile is generally the state where the author resides. But from 1978 until 2004, no U.S. state allowed same-sex couples to marry. As a result, no same-sex partner of a gay or lesbian author could qualify as a widow or widower entitled to termination rights. (Indeed, before 1998, an author whose partner did not qualify as a surviving spouse could not even designate that partner in the author’s will as the person who could exercise the termination right.)

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Grappling With The Most Notoriously Complex Provision in U.S. Copyright Law

Posted October 26, 2017

Erica Row, Julia Wu, Pam Samuelson, Mike Wolfe, Eric Malmgren, and Jack Lerner

The following guest post was written by Julia Wu and Eric Malmgren, students at the Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic at UC Irvine Law. We’re grateful to the clinic students and to their director, Jack Lerner, for all their work in reviewing the Termination of Transfer tool.

The law on termination of copyright transfers is complicated—really complicated. As members of the research team tasked with “vetting” the Authors Alliance/Creative Commons Termination of Transfer Tool, we became acutely aware of just how intricate, technical, and downright maddening this area of law can be.

In 2016, Authors Alliance approached the UCI Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic for help launching the Termination of Transfer Tool (“ToT Tool”), an online resource to educate authors about termination of transfers and roughly estimate whether a work is eligible for a termination. They wanted to ensure that the ToT Tool correctly applied the law to estimate copyright duration and the timeframes during which a termination of transfer could be executed.

It’s a cliché, but in this case it fits perfectly: we were thrown into the deep end of the pool, and we had to learn quickly how to swim. Together with fellow clinic member Erica Row, Professor Jack Lerner, and our friends at the Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic at Colorado Law, we immersed ourselves in §§ 203 and 304 of the Copyright Act, relevant case law, and treatises such as Nimmer on Copyright.

After extensive research, our team met to map out the logical steps needed to determine whether a given work would likely be eligible for a termination of transfer.  Our goal was to create a set of binary (yes-no) questions and simple equations that would reliably predict whether a termination right likely existed and when it could be exercised. UCI law students standing next to an outline of the ToT toolSeveral of these questions were derived from the Copyright Act, such as whether the copyright was assigned through a last will and testament. If so, it cannot be terminated.  Others depended on factors found in important court decisions, such as CCNV v. Reid, which provided guidance as to whether a given work is a “work made for hire” and thus ineligible for termination. Our “map” of termination law became a flowchart the length of a large UCI Law classroom.

The most basic analysis of whether a transferred copyrighted work is eligible for termination requires four main dates: the date of the work’s creation, the date of the work’s publication (if applicable), the date of copyright registration (if applicable), and the date of the transfer or assignment. There are ninety-three years between the relevant years of 1923 and 2016. Multiplying ninety-three by itself four times (i.e., 934) results in 74,805,201 possible combinations of those four dates.  In light of the millions of possibilities, a flowchart on a whiteboard—no matter how big—would not allow us to evaluate enough scenarios to verify that the ToT Tool accurately analyzed transfer eligibility, so we developed a spreadsheet that mirrored the ToT Tool’s functionality and could be used as an independent verification method—essentially, a parallel tool. As we discovered new and sometimes minor nuances of the termination provisions, we devised ways to address them within the spreadsheet. Over time, our spreadsheet grew more and more intricate.

We found that rather than attempt to review all 75+ million date combinations, we could focus on dates that corresponded to important changes in U.S. copyright law, like January 1, 1978, the date the 1976 Copyright Act went into effect. With these significant dates in mind, we created a list of date combinations that would likely reveal whether the ToT Tool and our spreadsheet correctly addressed the nuances of the termination provisions.

Our work culminated in an afternoon in which we trained fourteen other students in the UCI IPAT Clinic on the use of the Authors Alliance/Creative Commons ToT Tool, and gave each one a list of date combinations to enter into both the Tool and our spreadsheet. Members of the IPAT Clinic processed hundreds of the highest-priority date combinations that we could identify. We gathered the results and analyzed any discrepancies to determine whether the ToT Tool or our spreadsheet accurately predicted the correct outcome. We also met and talked numerous times with Authors Alliance’s then-Executive Director Mike Wolfe, and Professor Pamela Samuelson.

Termination of copyright transfers is a complex and sometimes unsettled area of the law. For the first time ever, the Authors Alliance/Creative Commons Termination of Transfer Tool makes what has been an arcane and inscrutable area of the law accessible to everyone.  We are incredibly proud to have contributed to this effort.

Use the Termination of Transfer Tool, read the materials, and if you think you may have a work eligible for a termination of transfer, speak with an attorney who can help you get your rights back.


Eric Malmgren and Julia Wu are J.D. Candidates at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. During the 2016-2017 academic year, they were Certified Law Students in the UCI Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic. 

Spotlight on Open Access & Innovative Academic Publishing Models

Posted October 25, 2017

Just in time for the start of the new academic year, Authors Alliance featured a series of Q&As with our members on the topic of open access and innovative academic publishing models. In celebration of Open Access Week, we’ve collected what these authors had to say about the benefits of making their works openly accessible.

 

Eric von Hippel (MIT) on the benefits of making his books, Free Innovation, The Sources of Innovation, and Democratizing Innovation, openly accessible:

“The increase in readership I have experienced by going OA is really worth it to me—it makes me very happy. Evidence to date is that about 10 times more eBooks are downloaded than print copies are sold, so I guesstimate that I am reaching about 10 times more people with the ideas I find exciting than I could have done in the pre-OA era.”

“It especially makes me happy that now teachers can assign even a single chapter of one of my books in a class in a developing country if they wish, without worrying about burdening students with any purchase costs.”

 

Read the full interview with Professor von Hippel here.

 

James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins (Duke) on the benefits of openly publishing their law school casebook, Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society – Cases & Materials:

“…[T]he benefits of openness come out in other surprising ways. For example, visually impaired students have told us they really appreciate an open electronic text that can be customized using their favorite programs—to produce a machine-generated audiobook, for example, in whatever format they choose.

“[I]t is striking how much tangible benefit in terms of citation, influence, and so on that [making our book openly accessible] has yielded. When it comes to open access to scholarship, doing good can be very compatible with doing well.”

 

Read the full interview with Professors Boyle and Jenkins here.

 

Barton Beebe (NYU) on the benefits of publishing Trademark Law: An Open Source Casebook as an open access work:

“I sort of love that so many students are using my book and that they didn’t have to pay for it. That’s worth more to me than whatever royalties I would get through the for-profit model.”

“I think the main result of using the open access model is that a lot more people have used the book and so maybe it has had more influence than it otherwise might have.”

 

Read the full interview with Professor Beebe here.

 

For more information about open access, including our guidebook and more success stories, check out our Open Access resource page.

ICYMI: Books on Open Access & Copyright Featuring
Authors Alliance Members

Posted October 24, 2017

Here at Authors Alliance, we like to keep up our copyright chops all year ’round, and we know that many of our readers do, too. In honor of Open Access Week, we’re re-posting this list, originally shared over the summer, of new books featuring Authors Alliance members. Best of all, three of the four titles are openly accessible and available to read in full online!

Screen-Shot-2017-06-13-at-11.29.05-AMFirst up is Creativity without Law: Challenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property,  edited by Kate Darling and Aaron Perzanowski, and published by NYU Press. This collection features essays about diverse creative communities by a number of noted IP scholars (and Authors Alliance members!), including David Fagundes, Aaron Perzanowski, Christopher Sprigman, Katherine Strandburg, Rebecca Tushnet, and Eric Von Hippel.

The book demonstrates how creative endeavors, from cinema and fanfic to fine cuisine and roller derby, push the boundaries and assumptions of intellectual property through community norms and self-regulation. As Perzanowski and Darling write in their introduction, “While IP is a crucial tool for maintaining creative incentives in some industries, scholars of creativity already understand that the assumptions underlying the IP system largely ignore the range of powerful non-economic motivations that compel creative efforts. From painters to open source developers, many artists and inventors are moved to create, not by the hope for monetary return, but by innate urges that are often quite resistant to financial considerations.”

In a similar vein is Made by Creative ComMade With Creative Commons - Covermons, by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchliff Pearson. It’s a collection of real-life examples that highlights the advantages of using CC licenses, both for sharing work and for building a sustainable business model. Case studies include everything from the party game Cards Against Humanity to the Public Library of Science (PLoS) to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

“Part analysis, part handbook, part collection of case studies, we see Made With Creative Commons as a guide to sharing your knowledge and creativity with the world, and sustaining your operation while you do. It makes the case that sharing is good for business, especially for companies, organizations, and creators who care about more than just the bottom line. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share.”

The book is available as a free download (under a CC license, of course!), and may also be purchased in a print edition.

9781760460808-b-thumb-copyright Out in paperback from Australian National University Press is What if We Could Reimagine Copyright?, a collection of essays by international scholars about the possibilities of copyright, edited by Authors Alliance members Rebecca Giblin and Kimberlee Weatherall. Like Creative Commons, ANU Press offers the book as a free download, as well as in print.

“What if we could start with a blank slate, and write ourselves a brand new copyright system? What if we could design a law, from scratch, unconstrained by existing treaty obligations, business models and questions of political feasibility? Would we opt for radical overhaul, or would we keep our current fundamentals? Which parts of the system would we jettison? Which would we keep? In short, what might a copyright system designed to further the public interest in the current legal and sociological environment actually look like? Taking this thought experiment as their starting point, the leading international thinkers represented in this collection reconsider copyright’s fundamental questions: the subject matter that should be protected, the ideal scope and duration of those rights, and how it should be enforced.”

Free Innovation - CoverFinally, we recommend Free Innovation by Eric Von Hippel, available in full as an open access title from MIT Press.

“Free innovation has both advantages and drawbacks. Because free innovators are self-rewarded by such factors as personal utility, learning, and fun, they often pioneer new areas before producers see commercial potential. At the same time, because they give away their innovations, free innovators generally have very little incentive to invest in diffusing what they create, which reduces the social value of their efforts.

The best solution, von Hippel and his colleagues argue, is a division of labor between free innovators and producers, enabling each to do what they do best. The result will be both increased producer profits and increased social welfare—a gain for all.”