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Confused About Fair Use? A Prof & a Lawyer Discuss Best Practices for Bloggers

Seasoned bloggers are generally familiar with the parameters of copyright law. But anyone can start a blog, and even for those who have been active on the Internet for years what is and isn’t permissible fair use is sometimes unclear.

The law itself can be confusing, especially when it is applied to media other than traditional print. However, understanding the policies underlying the law make it easier to interpret, Pat Aufderheide and attorney Michael Donaldson tell Web Pro News.

Aufderheide is executive director for the Center of Social Media at American University and works with the university’s law school to develop best practices for fair use, and Donaldson’s law firm, Donaldson & Callif, regularly provides fair use opinion letters.

“You cannot enter into discourse about our culture without quoting from it,” says Aufderheide, and hence fair use standards are based on the right of free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Thus, explains Donaldson, excerpting reasonable portions of copyrighted material to tell a story is considered fair use. He for-instances a video in which a voiceover that mentions taking a page out of John Lennon’s songbook is illustrated by 15-second clip of Lennon’s song “Imagine.”

“In order to make sense out of that comment, you had to play the song,” Donaldson says.

The Web Pro News article links to a video in which the two experts discuss fair use standards in greater detail.