New Yorkers For Fair Use

© Copyright for the Digital Millennium

2003/07/23 MIT & BC fight DMCA abuse by RIAA

2003/07/03 Brett Wynkoop to speak to the Manhattan Libertarian Party July 9, 2003

2003/06/17 Read the transcript of what we told the copyright office

2003/05/11 Listen to what we told the copyright office on 2003/05/02 (2MB .ogg file)

2003/05/08 Microsoft and Hollywood hit the control button

2003/05/07 Lessig to speak at Cooper Union 12 May

2003/04/14 DMCA abused to silence lecture on flaws in campus security card system

2003/01/21 Join the Palladium/TCPA Boycott

2003/01/16 RIAA Changes its Tactics Because of Grassroots Efforts

2003/01/15 A Dark Day for Copyright in the United States.

2003/01/01 Copyright Extremists are After Your Rights

2002/12/17 Elcomsoft Case Verdcct

2002/12/06 Disney VP on Broadcast Flag: Ignore the Public

2002/11/19 The Evil That Is the DMCA

2002/10/27 Tell the FCC to Serve the Public, Not Hollywood!

2002/10/22 Can You Trust Your Computer?

2002/10/20 Transcript of the Oral Arguments in the Eldred Case

2002/10/09 Read the Early Report on the Supreme Court Case Against the Mickey Mouse Act ( Bono Act )

2002/07/18 We got some press coverage. Check it out!

Some pictures of the event are here.

Your right to own and operate a computer is under attack!
Immediate action is needed!

Can't Quote the Law without Permission of a Copyright Holder.

That's right - The Law we live under is prohibited to be copied or distributed according to these legal geniuses Don't say "We the People" in Public....

Who We Are

New Yorkers for Fair Use is a group that supports copyright law as Congress originally framed and implemented it. Congress first conceived of copyright law as a limited term protection for authors and inventors. This limited term protection was meant to be an incentive to creators of original work to distribute their inventions as quickly and as widely as possible. Congress hoped that this distribution would facilitate scientific and artistic progress. Today, the extension of copyright to 70 or more years past the death of the author and the passage of laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, support the interests of corporations in maintaining monopolies over their creations at the expense of scientific and artistic progress. The DMCA is a particularly egregious example of this trend in copyright law. The DMCA grants the authors of digital works the ability to specify how their work my be used in perpetuity. Moreover, the DMCA even allows authors to prohibit the copying and quoting of their digital work for the purpose of education -- a use of copyrighted works which has traditionally been allowed under the doctrine of fair use. Because the DMCA allows authors to prevent other members of the public from using their work as a basis for further creative endeavor, we believe the DMCA fatally harms the original intent of copyright law, which was to promote progress in the useful arts and sciences. As such, we support the revocation of the DMCA in the interests of scientific and artistic progress. We also support the extension of the fair use doctrine into the digital domain so that some balance is restored between the interests of the public and the interests of authors and inventors.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is like love - everyone thinks they know what it is, but few actually understand what it really means.

Historically, Copyright did not exist in western civilization. At the time of Shakespeare, there was no Copyright. At that time playwrights, poets, and artists would vigorously hide their works until playtime for fear of piracy. All poets and playwrights borrowed from each other. Shakespeare' Macbeth is a largely a copied work of previous versions. It is altered by Shakespeare. He added original verse and molded the play that has come down to us. Original elements are intertwined into previous versions from other works. This was not only commonly done by playwrights, but accepted practice.

Prior to the Guttenburg Bible and the mass usage of the printing press, the reproduction of cultural artifacts such as literature and books of learning, was largely controlled by religious institutions like the Catholic Church. The decreasing cost of education and the obtaining of information challenged the political control of the Church, and caused a social revolution. The Protestant revolution was the most visible, but not the only result of the decreasing cost of information. With increasing literacy and access to information, the middle class began to swell from the ranks of peasantry. They brought with them practical demands for works of art and learning, and the need to produce original works of arts and sciences for business and spiritual reasons. People started to demand control over the original creations they produced.

Copyright in Europe and Colonial America

The first Copyright laws developed in Europe in response to the increasing needs of this middle class. By the 1600s in England, it was apparent that it was a benefit to the British nationstate to have some control over the distribution of certain works. Absolute control of original materials was given to Copyright holders. Copyright was established in the law, along with trade secret and patent laws, all designed to assure English dominance in the industrial revolution which was slowly taking hold. Copyrights were issued by the government on a case to case basis. Copyright law and patents became an arm of British colonial policy. Works on industrial processing and other areas were prevented from being transported out of the native isles of English Crown. This helped assure the colonial relationship of England to her colonies, and helped assure British sea power as well.

After the American Revolution, our Founding Fathers looked closely at the issue of Copyright and patents. They determined that an unlimited Copyright was inherently contrary to their aims to create a democratic society. They recognized the need for free association and free speech, which Copyright inherently limits. They recognized the intrusion that Copyright presented on individuals property rights. And most importantly, they realized that unlimited Copyright would erode the principles of a shared cultural heritage which we enjoy as a free people in a common civilization. Unlimited Copyright would surely undermine a free society.

American Copyright
American Copyright is based on the constitutional precept of a limited Copyright license designed to promote the public well being. All Copyright law is an extension of Congressional power to limit property rights and freedom of speech of the public through a limited Copyright license. This power is granted from the following paragraph in the Constitution, without which Copyright would be unconstitutional:

[Congress can pass Laws] To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
Key to Copyright was the concept that Copyright is limited. This was a break in American law from European and English common law. Congress has the power to grant Copyrights, or to not grant Copyrights. Congress can revoke all Copyright protections tomorrow, and Copyright owners are without resource. This is different than Freedom of Speech, which is guaranteed in the 1st Amendment. Congress can never suspend Freedom of Speech or Freedom of the Press with the passage of a bill. The institution of Copyright as defined by the Constitution meant that by constitutional law, and as uphelded repeatedly in the Supreme Court, Copyright does not supercede the constitutional guarantees of the citizenry. Their property and freedom of speech are protected under the law. The balance between the exclusive rights of authors and inventors who have obtained Copyright, and the public's inalienable rights is called Fair Use.

Fair use is the constitutional rights of citizens in respect to their legally obtained property, which happens to be of copies of works granted Copyright. Copyright is a privilege that is superceded by Fair Use constitutional guarantees. Copyright can never supercede Fair Use. Without Fair Use, Copyright makes a criminal of citizens using Copyrighted works in support of a free society and a free government.

This is further codified into statutary law under the Copyright Act:

Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include -

  • (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Recent Copyright Issues

Recent trends in the law in response to the internet and the advent of digital medium have assaulted Copyright. Among the recent laws passed which threaten Copyright is the Digital Millennium Act which Congress passed in 1998 in response to pressure from the broadcast and mass media industry in the US. Another law recently passed which attempts to destroy Copyright is the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act.

Since Copyright can not be legal without Fair Use, both of these laws, among others making rounds on the Federal and State level, are undermining the legal and moral foundation of Copyright. New Yorkers for Fair Use is an organization which is determined to protect the validity of Copyright law by protecting Fair Use and dispelling misinformation on Copyright.

We would like you to know, first and foremost what is a legal use of Copyrighted material and what is not.

First of all: Can I own an idea, song, work of art, writing or other creative work of abstract human intellect?

No - One can not own an idea, even if you created it. You can only own a limited license called a Copyright or patent to exploit your idea for comercial purposes, or not to exploit it if you choose to. Intellectual Property is a misuse of language often used to confuse people about their rights and responsibilities. It is similar to "The Democratic Republic of China" By supporting responsible Copyright legislation, you can best protect your rights under Copyright.

Legal Actions with Copyrighted Works

  1. Copying a Copyrighted work.
  2. Making an archive of Copyrighted works.
  3. Editing a Copyrighted work.
  4. Distributing a quote from a Copyrighted work within an original work for the purposes of discussing that work.
  5. Giving a copy of a Copyrighted work to a friend without a charge or other monetary consideration.
  6. Using the Copyrighted work without permission of the Copyright holder in a way the Copyright holder did not initially approve of in its sale of the work to you.
  7. Destroying your copy of the Copyrighted work.
  8. Travelling with the Copyrighted work into a different jurisdiction.
  9. Selling your copy of the Copyrighted work.

Illegal Uses of a Copyrighted Work

  1. Making a copy of a Copyrighted work and selling it.
  2. Charging for the viewing a Copyrighted work without permission of the Copyright holder.
  3. Amassing a database of Copyrighted works and charging for access to that database.
  4. Mixing together Copyrighted works and selling your services for reading or playing that mix.

Some specific issues with Copyright:

FBI Warning on Video Tapes.
The FBI Warning about copying a video tape is a lie. Owners of Copyrighted material are allowed to copy the VHS Tape for their personal use. Copying is not a crime.

Ripping CD's to MP3 files.
This is LEGAL. Copying legally purchased Copyrighted material is a protected act under the Constitution.

Making copies of a Copyrighted article for a class discussion and distributing them to the class.
Legal and explicit under Section 107 quoted above.

Sharing an MP3 music file, or a cassette tape of music without charge.
This is LEGAL unless your doing this as part of a business plan or promotion. You can have a website full of MP3's as long as it is not a business site, you are not selling ad space etc. If you can afford it, have fun.

Copying software in a business.
Illegal - Don't do it.

Copying software you own for personal use.
Legal if no money is passing hands.

Sell copies of software you own and no longer use.
Legal as a second sale.