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"Fair Use" and Copyright

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Tags Legal SystemInterventionismMonopoly and Competition

Media Critic Solomon Pushes Limits of Fair-Use in New Documentary provides a good illustration of how flawed the entire notion of copyright is. This piece reports that:

The new documentary "War Made Easy" isn't just a searing critique of how administrations over the past 40 years have manipulated the media to build support for war. The 72-minute film is a media provocation itself — a challenge to federal copyright laws.
Based on a 2005 book by Bay Area media critic Norman Solomon and narrated by actor Sean Penn, roughly 90 percent of "War Made Easy" consists of archival news footage from major television networks that would cost a ton of money to license — if the filmmakers had paid for all of it; they bought only about 60 percent from distributors. 0817 01
The filmmakers say they are protected under the "fair use" provision of federal copyright law, a measure that is being tested in ways unimagined when it was codified 30 years ago.

The "fair use" doctrine is a safety valve in copyright law; without it, the effect of copyright would be even more draconian than it is now. But the "fair use" standard is inherently arbitrary and non-objective. It is impossible to imagine such a standard arising on the free market in a private-property order. To protect copyright the only real choice is to have a draconian, ridiculous Galambosian-style copyright system which would be obviously and manifestly incompatible with true private property rights; or to temper its effect, to blunt its edges, with arbitratry, discretionary doctrines like this. Neither option is compatible with property rights.

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.

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