[rumori] MIT Press and fair use

From: James Allenspach (jimaATlegnog.com)
Date: Wed Mar 19 2003 - 13:59:12 PST

 From Lawrence Lessig's blog, via boingboing.net:


It's a pretty short entry, so I'll include it all here. (Fair use, heh.)



the good that MIT does

I met Berkeley CS Professor Christos Papadimitriou yesterday. He told me an extraordinary story (which he allowed me to share).

Papadimitriou is publishing a book this summer with MIT Press. The book is a novel titled Turing. As Papadimitriou describes it, in one chapter he has a single line from about a dozen rock-n-roll songs. The editors at MIT press decided to seek permission for each of the 12 single lines. They sent out 12 letters. They received 10 forms (which had to be completed before the request could be considered) and two replies.

One reply, from the representatives of the Kinks, demanded $10,000 for permission to reprint the line “help me, help me, help, me sail away” from the song “Sunny afternoon.”

The other reply, from representatives of the Kobain estate (which I assume is within Courtney Love’s control) forbids him from reprinting the line “polly says her back hurts” from the Nirvana song “Polly.”

MIT has nonetheless decided that these words are protected by fair use, despite these demands.

That is rare in this business. Publishers are among the most conservative “fair users” — not because they don’t believe in free speech, but because they understand the burden of non-free lawyers. If a lawsuit is filed against a publisher for copyright infringement, the cost of answering the complaint can suck up the total profit from the book. Thus, however generous the Supreme Court thinks it is when it defends “fair use,” the relevant “fair use” is the freedom publishers permit.

It is a great thing that publishers like MIT can help set the standard. The law should make it easier for others to do the same.

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