The strength of the YouTube community lies in its creativity. Often this takes the form of memorable original content, such as Rebecca Black’s recent hit song / music video, Friday.
However, as the Rebecca Black phenomenon demonstrated yet again, this creativity also lies in the community’s ability to produce parodies, mashups, and remixes of well-known original content. In fact, if you love Rebecca Black, thanks to the YouTube community’s endless ability to riff on popular memes, there are a number of examples of Friday-inspired parodies. Here’s one from funnyman Conan O’Brien, which has close to half a million views:
Why are YouTube users like Conan allowed to produce parodies of Rebecca Black’s original song?
Fair use is a legal term that grants creators an exception to the strict copyright that the original content owner controls -- in layman’s terms, it’s the idea that as long as the use is “fair,” someone can reference part of someone else’s work for parody, scholarly reasons, or more.
What constitutes “fair use” is a complicated issue and one that we get asked about quite often. So we’ve asked two leading experts from the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, Anthony Falzone and Julie Ahrens, to help answer your questions.
Falzone is the Executive Director of the Fair Use Project and a lecturer in law at Stanford Law School. Julie Ahrens is the Associate Director of the Fair Use Project and also a lecturer in law at Stanford Law School. As litigators they have defended everyone from video game makers, to writers, to artists (including Shepard Fairey) against copyright claims.
Using Google Moderator you can ask Falzone your questions about fair use and vote on other questions. They will answer a selection of the top-voted questions via video and we’ll post it on this blog on Monday, May 2. Question submission closes April 21. Ask your questions here!