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Old February 15th, 2005, 10:59 AM   #1
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Fair Use by Government

I know this subject gets kicked around al ot here, but I haven't been able to make a decision based on the info I've found, so I need to ask the question.

I work for the federal government and one of our offices is putting together some Powerpoint presentations. These PP presentations will be used for, among other things, recruitement. So they will be shown at job fairs, schools, etc., meaning a lot of people will see it. The folks putting it together have chosen some popular songs, one from U2 and I don't remember the other bands, to play during the presentations.

We've had an in-house attorney (not an intellectual propery attorney) give an opinion that we "should be okay depending on the extent of the use of the presentations and the audience." So our folks took her opinion to mean we are okay. I say we are not. Does anyone know if this is considered Fair Use and/or does the federal government use a more broad definition of Fair Use for itself (this shouldn't be allowed IMO). Thanks for any help.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:17 AM   #2
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Nick,
Thanks for asking this...I've heard the same thing many times regarding internal gov't agency use of everything from Far Side cartoons to Monty Python video clips. I've been meaning to ask this question, since I've NEVER found anything in writing that supports such use without permission just because it's "the guvment." If any of our Legal Beagles can point us to written references (a quote of federal law that I haven't managed to find, perhaps?) that might apply, would be most appreciated.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:18 AM   #3
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I think your in house attourney might be well advised to consult with some of his/her learned friends in the area concerning copyright infringement.

If it's ok to use as a performance to a few, then what constitutes the quantity and performance venue? That is for the rights owner or publisher of the work to determine and apply the license and fee that goes with the use.

Being that you are the government makes you omnipotent? Exclusionary?

Have your attourney test the sentance above and then re-evaluate their position on the use of copyrighted works.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:24 AM   #4
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Kind of ironic that the same government that is trying so hard to pass legislation against copyright infringement, and punish those who do it, is actually trying to get away with it themselves.
I'm not a lawyer, much less an IP lawyer but as I understand it, really ANY use of someone else's work (without permission) is a violation of copyright law. They want to use someone else's material for their own personal/financial gain. And U2 especially, is very protective of their music and has historically refused any permissions for it's use (specifically for commercial use). The whole Apple campaign that came out was the first time they allowed it, and they didn't even charge for it. (they just did it because they really believed in the products)

I couldn't see how it would possibly fall within "fair use" at all, but I'm not the expert and don't know enough about "how" they want to use it. Background music, NO, historical reflection on the band specifically, MAYBE, but I would still ask the band. If it got out it could be a PR nightmare and you don't want that.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:45 AM   #5
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Um, I may not have been clear. I don't think anyone here at my Agency is trying to "get away" with anything. I think there is just a very big misunderstanding of Fair Use. I believe my co-workers would do the right thing if given the correct legal advice.

Let me say this again for anyone in my chain of command that may be reading this, I am not saying anyone is trying to skirt the law, they just don't understand the law (which, judging by this and other forums is a common thing). My advice was that it just isn't worth it, but I would like to give some concrete reasons why. Thanks for all advice.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:53 AM   #6
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I never saw one word in the entire copyright law that made specific exemptions for governmental violation of copyrights, except in conjunction with a criminal investigation or the Patriot Act (which overrides the Constitution).

A property right is a property right, and intellectual property is no different. Would your agency say you are going to come use my house "just for a little while" because it is convenient to you?

I may also speculate that you could personally be held liable (regardless of your status as a government employee) under the millenium copyright act of criminal charges and imprisonment.

BTW, for a couple of hundred bucks, you can buy a nice library of unlimited use music.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 11:58 AM   #7
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<<<-- Originally posted by John Galt : BTW, for a couple of hundred bucks, you can buy a nice library of unlimited use music. -->>>

Exactly, and I think that's the best solution. But nobody listens to me. Thanks for the input.
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Old February 15th, 2005, 03:13 PM   #8
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Just so we don't drift into "Big Brother Conspiracy" territory, I agree with Nick entirely that this is not "The Agency" trying to get away with something evil or underhanded. Whenever I've seen this situation, it is an honest hard working person doing a presentation to co-workers, or an internal educational class and trying to make it entertaining/interesting. There is simply a commonly held PRESUMPTION that copyrighted materials are ok to use because it is for internal government use, not for commercial use.

Unless there's something in law to support that, I personally don't want to assume it to be so!
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Old February 22nd, 2005, 10:17 PM   #9
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Whew! Just a quick attempt at reading this made my eyes cross and my brain go Ctl-Alt-Del:

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#110

It does seem to reference governmental use of copyrighted works, but whether or not it answers the question at hand is just too much for my NON-lawyerly brain tonight! I'll try to take a fresh look at this link again when I'm well-rested, have lots of free time, and am feeling really patient and scholarly. A translation into English would be most welcome...anyone who is fluent in legalese willing to take a hack at this?
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Old February 25th, 2005, 09:19 AM   #10
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Pete, I almost made it through the first paragraph but I had to stop due to blurred vision caused by the pain in my head. :~)

At this point I've offered my co-workers my advice (the risk of using the music is much greater than the benefit of using it), I've shown a quick demo that I put together with the same pictures and royalty free music as an example of what can be done, and that's about all I can do. Thanks for the info.
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