[Videolib] was copyright talk; changed to a hermeneutical

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 23 Sep 2004 08:26:40 -0700

....Thanks for this insightful comment, Troy.

And if the hermeneutical lens is cloudy, I guess we can always go to bat
for the public good first and cease and desist later.


At 08:57 AM 9/23/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>From: Troy Davis <tdavis@email.lib.utk.edu>
>Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2004 08:57:04 -0400
>To: videolib@library.berkeley.edu
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>Subject: [Videolib] was copyright talk; changed to a hermeneutical lens
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>Hi folks,
>I'm not responding to any post in particular..i've just read through them...
>I've said this before but I think these discussions are a good thing. As a
>new librarian, these questions of copyright have forced me to do what the
>statute says I should do (exercise some "judgment" in determining if a use
>is fair.) A couple things should be clear: smart people (even judges and
>lawyers) disagree over copyright (is it a property right or just a statute
>that seeks to equitably regulate the flow of information?). This depends
>on who you ask. Infringement of copyright is defined simply as a
>violation of any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner. But, the
>statute and supreme court rulings say that to own the copyright of a work
>does not give you complete control over all possible uses of that work
>. So we're on safe ground when we assume that copyright is intended to
>serve/benefit the public's interest rather than the copyright holder's
>interest (at least the U.S. constitution says so, and the Supreme Court in
>a variety of rulings relating to copyright). There is of course a
>balancing act, but understanding copyright law, reading the statute
>through a "this is for the public good" lens will in fact lead you to
>certain "radical" (but in the end, legal) conclusions. The radical
>conclusion is that the INTENT/OBJECTIVE of the copyright statute is to
>serve the public good. So in particular situations, one has to exercise
>some judgment (for, after all, there is no quantification of fair uses in
>the statute). And since supreme court decisions (and the U.S.
>constitution) privilege the public good over author's labors this is one
>way to make practical decisions. We should respect the law, for the law
>is designed to promote knowledge and serve the public good.
>So, for example, in Feist Publications Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service
>Co, the supreme court decided that there is a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT for a
>user to copy uncopyrightable (public domain) material that is within a
>copyrighted work. Now is this fair? The Supreme Court says yes. Why?
>because the public domain is crucial to a democracy. Now the copyright
>holder would say "I went through all this work to assemble this public
>domain content and copyright this work, and you're ripping me off by
>copying it." The Court says, "wrong answer;" the public domain is more
>important. The court continues in this ruling that the monopoly
>privileges of the statute are limited and "must ultimately serve the
>public good." In Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, the Court
>plainly says that the PRIMARY OBJECTIVE of copyright is to promote
>knowledge, RATHER than to reward the labors of authors.
>So, its seems there's a place (and philosophical room) to talk about the
>"objective" of copyright. And if the supreme court has said (and
>remember, since copyright law is a federal statute, its only the Court's
>decisions that are nationally binding) that the primary objective of
>copyright law is to promote knowledge, not reward the labors of authors,
>then, for me, this objective offers an hermeneutical lens I use in reading
>the statute.
>great stuff.
>Videolib mailing list

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley


"Movies are poems, a holy bible, the great mother of us."
--Ted Berrigan