Sunday, August 18, 2013

Copyright law needs a ‘fair use’ exemption for curation

Copyright law includes exemptions for certain types of use. The “fair use” of copyrighted works includes the reproduction of works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.
For instance, a book reviewer can quote passages from a book they are critiquing. Or an artist like Andy Warhol can take copyrighted material and alter it to make a “transformative work.”
I believe copyright law needs an additional “fair use” exemption for curation. In this case, someone can create a new work by meticulously gathering and documenting instances of a certain trend, pattern or behavior for purposes of comment, criticism, news reporting and education.
This type of exemption is implied, but not explicitly stated by copyright law today.
Tumblr recently deleted three blogs of mine in which I was curating very specific types of photos. (For an explanation of why Tumblr deleted my account, see these articles: “Tumblr terminated my account, killed my three blogs”; “Tumblr content takedowns show its not-so-user friendly side” and “Yahoo’s Tumblr stifles free speech, silences TSA critic”.)
Before I did my research, no index was available for the types of photos I was curating. I was creating a resource where you could find instances of specific occurrences in one place.
One of my Tumblr blogs aggregrated instances of wardrobe malfunctions in the LFL women’s football league to show how ill-fitting the players’ uniforms are.
Another blog pointed out the absurdity of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration by showing TSA agents frisking and scanning well-known celebrities.
And my third blog showed how the news media tended to take pictures of pretty female teachers during the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike.
Before I put together that research, there was no way to find or see a collection of those activities. And only when you see all the photos in one place does the scope of situation become clear.
Here are just a few examples of photo curation sites that I’ve seen recently on Tumblr. (Note that any one of these could be taken down by overzealous copyright enforcers):

Goofy Face Bruce (Photos of rocker Bruce Springsteen and his goofy facial expressions.)

Bruce Springsteen’s Crotch (Photos of Springsteen’s crotch, of course.)

Animals Riding Animals (“The most comprehensive collection of animals riding other animals on the whole wide Internet.”)

Local People With Their Arms Crossed (This blog highlights the local newspaper cliche of people posed with their arms crossed. It was written up by and Laughing Squid.)

Cop Selfies (Photos of police officers taking pictures of themselves. It was spotlighted by Laughing Squid.)

Books of Orange Is the New Black (Stills from the Netflix TV show “Orange Is the New Black” showing prisoners reading books.)

The Lisa Simpson Book Club (Photos of “The Simpsons” characters reading.)

What Netflix Does (Photos showing how Netflix’s streaming video service often crops movie images. See article by Laughing Squid.)

Law & Order & Food (Photos from the TV show “Law & Order” showing characters eating.)

Kid Casting (A collection of photos showing actors on TV shows and movies and the child actors who portray them in flashbacks.)

Bill Hader Needs Clothes (A blog showing how comic actor Bill Hader tends to wear the same clothes.)

Sad Guys on Trading Floors (“Turning the economic crisis into one of those clever Internet memes.”)

The Brokers with Hands on Their Faces Blog (Similar, but more specific, to Sad Guys on Trading Floors.)

Celebrities with Cats (Photos of celebrities with cats. Formerly called Celebrity Pussy.)

Photo: Sample Bruce Springsteen photo from Goofy Face Bruce. 

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