July 17, 2007
C3 Writing on Copyright and Fair Use

Joshua Green and I were sitting in his office yesterday, talking about copyright issues and how they relate to our own upcoming thoughts about a new environment of spreadable media, when the conversation shifted to fair use issues surrounding these debates.

Joshua's contention was that fair use issues are an implicit part of any facet of conversation about mash-ups, viral marketing, proselytizing, fan communities, or even convergence culture in general, and that, while talking about fair use is not necessarily something we will extensively focus on in our research, it is a part of many of the arguments we are making.

I concur that fair use discussions are quite important when thinking about issues of respect, and the prohibitionist/collaborationist modes of thinking Henry Jenkins writes about. Back in December, we featured a series of conversations about fair use issues in relation to C3 (see the posts from Jason Mittell, Ted Hovet, and Joel Greenberg), and I have been thinking about these issues recently in relation to my own writing about quoting, as opposed to piracy, when it comes to online video.

In my post last week entitled The Sharecroppers of the Digital age, I summarized some of my own thoughts about fair use issues. But I was interested to see a couple of related points made by two C3 consulting researchers, Grant McCracken and Jason Mittell, on their own blogs recently.

Mittell has been focusing on fair use issues in media education and elsewhere for a while now, and he tackled some of these issues in a recent post sharing the draft of a chapter for his upcoming book entitled Television and American Culture. This chapter, called "Copyright and Television," provides a great overview of the copyright issues that background the discussions we have. He writes about the various cross-platform distribution strategies television producers have engaged in in order to curtail the disruption of digital copying on their business model.

Meanwhile, McCracken had copyright issues rear their ugly head toward him while working on a manuscript for his latest book, when Ani DiFranco refused to grant him copyright for some of her lyrics. Grant had planned to use her (and may still, for all I know), as an example, an "exemplar" even, of some of the open source issues he was writing about, only to have her refuse his permission to use her words.

Grant writes, "This is not the DiFranco you think you see on stage and in the ones and zeros. I guess this tells us that she never was what she contrived to seem, a champion of an open source culture. [ . . . ] The second possibility is that DiFranco is aging, changing, narrowing, risking less and controlling more. I guess the transformational career continues."

I fear to see what the revised manuscript of the book might look like...

Be sure to give both posts a look, as they are quite directly related to some of the conversations the C3 team has been having, both internally and here on the blog, for a while now.