Fairness in Copyright

When it comes to creative products, such as journalism, photography or book publishing, it’s easy to forget that it was someone’s original idea, especially as these products have transitioned to digital formats and it’s as easy to pirate them than ever. Remember Napster? Now instead of songs, it’s words and pictures.

On Monday March 27, in collaboration with the Copyright Alliance, the News Media Alliance hosted a “Fairness in Copyright” event on Capitol Hill, filling the room with industry experts and congressional staff.

News Media Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, delivered keynote remarks emphasizing the importance of copyright protections that support high-quality, original journalism.

“Do you want free news?” he asked. “Because that’s ‘Pope endorses Trump.’” Instead, he expressed that people should invest in and protect journalism. “If you don’t support real news, you’re implicitly supporting garbage.”

June Besek, Executive Director at the Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and Arts at Columbia University moderated a lively discussion on the importance of copyright protections for creators. The panel included James Marcovitz, Senior Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, News Corp; John Harrington, Visual Journalist; Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director, Authors Guild & Authors Guild Foundation; Matthew Sarboraria, Vice President & Associate General Counsel, Oracle; and Yoko Miyashita, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Getty Images.

The discussion centered on the importance of copyright protections to the creation of high-quality products, including photography, software, books, newspapers and more .Fair use is any copying of material that is conducted for a limited “transformative” purpose. This includes critique, commentary, and parody. If it qualifies as fair use then it is not considered an infringement of copyright protections.

Copyright isn’t a “Hollywood” issue, Besek explained. Large corporations and individual artists rely on it. Originally, fair use was intended to provide breathing space, but it has now become suffocating.

Lack of copyright protection has led to the mean income for authors dropping 30 percent from 2009 to 2015. Publishers are less willing to take risks. Marcovitz said authors and journalists are being laid off because the money isn’t there.

“Writing is a craft,” said Mary Rasenberger. “We need incentives to enable a professional class of writers.”

For photographers, Harrington explained that people devalue the cost and investment that goes into the work, but photographers need insurance and 401(k)s too.

“Fair use is critically important, but it needs to be balanced,” he said.

Miyashita explains that Google has created obstacles for photographers, posting large, high resolution copies of photos, available for licensing through Google images. Stealing someone else’s work is easier than ever.

“We are not anti-fair use,” she said. “But we want proper credit, and dollars matter.”


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