I recently read an interesting article on social media and the law that referred to two valuable resources on the application of an important copyright doctrine: the fair use defense as applied to user generated content. Whether you are a creator of print, video, music or any other form of media content, or own or operate a web site or business that acquires user generated content, I recommend both. The first, “A citizen's legal guide to fair use in copyright law” reviews the nature and scope of this copyright law created defense, which may be crucial to avoid being the subject of an infringement claim by media publishers, including newspapers, magazines, television and cable networks, and music publishers. It can also help you avoid unnecessarily paying licensing fees or royalties to publishers or other owners of content for certain uses of pre-existing content. The article is by no means an exhaustive legal treatise on the subject of fair use; instead, it is a very helpful summary and starting point if you are thinking of “borrowing” existing content to include with any content you create.
The second resource specifically focuses on video content. The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video can be found on the webs site of the Center for Social Media. This code has been developed to help creators of videos understand the fair use defense. Like the guide described above, the code is not an exhaustive legal treatise on the subject of fair use and should not be used in lieu of seeking competent legal advice. However, it should provide you with a starting point for determining whether or not you should be concerned about possible infringement claims if you are thinking about including someone else’s content in your video.