Tuesday 17 July 2012

Romney and Obama: it's just not fair

A very quick post to relay some news that is making waves over the pond where copyright has reached presidential levels.

As part of his presidential campaign Mitt Romney recently released an advert on YouTube including a clip of President Obama singing one line of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together". The Obama clip is 9 seconds long. You can watch a longer version here.

This use of Al Green's work prompted BMG to issue a takedown notice causing YouTube to remove the advert from its site. Of course the political ramifications of the decision can be argued at great length, and commentators have used the takedown as evidence of all sorts of allegiances, however the fundamental question is whether using 9 seconds of a song in a political campaign constitutes fair use.

The short answer: there is no definition of the meaning of "fair" in the US and there is no single threshold above which use becomes unfair. Instead the courts look at a number of  factors including the amount of the work used, as well as the purpose of the use. In this instance it seems that YouTube was right to remove the content as following Henley v. DeVore, 733 F.Supp.2d 1144 (C.D. Cal. 2010) use by a political campaign of a song protected by copyright is not fair.
What would happen if Cameron employed similar tactics? The mind boggles…

1 comment:

Sandy Crawley said...

Cameron would probably select some ancient work, no one more contemporary than Ivor Novello, that is in the public domain. Although he might be tempted to use dead rock stars who can't sue....