Of copyrights and copywrongs

By Jon Roig

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Here's a crash course in copyright law. It's by no means complete, but it should give you an idea of the issues at stake here.

Everything you create is your work, and is therefore copyrighted under current U.S. law. Create something for a corporation, and it belongs to the corporation. All that is fairly simple, but it gets more complex when it comes to using other's work to incorporate it into your own.

The concept is called "fair use." The following five factors are considered by the courts when making infringement decisions:

The purpose and character of the work.

The nature of the copyrighted work.

How much and what part of

the copyrighted work is used in relation to the work as a whole.

The effect of use on the potential market for the copyrighted work.

If the work can be considered a parody or not.

But, what about collage, sampling, or just using tiny pieces of the original work? These types of questions are not addressed by current copyright law. By its nature, Negativland and Baldwin's work relies on the appropriation of work created by others. As it is now, sampling a work requires either getting it cleared and paying royalties or taking something from the public domain.

Artists, such as Negativland and Craig Baldwin, are simply priced out of the game because it costs so much in legal fees and clearance fees to obtain rights to what basically amount to brief fragments of media culture.

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