Shhhh…ifting the debate to kill Fair Use
April 9th, 2008

Via Boingboing

According to Google lawyer William Patry, entertainment giants are waging a ‘whisper campaign’ to kill the Fair use doctrine of US copyright law. This doctrine allows copyrighted material to be used in a limited way without permission from copyright holders, such as for scholarship or review, and is based on free speech rights. As their line of attack, entertainment giants are attempting to persuade world governments that Fair Use violates the Berne Convention, a centuries-old copyright treaty that is extremely rigid and difficult to change, and whose adoption is a condition for other trade agreements. And as implied by its terminology, this whisper campaign is sneaky: fearing that their appeal cannot succeed on the basis of its merits, giants have shifted the debate into a more promising arena – namely, minutia of copyright laws that ministry officials are unfamiliar with, and therefore less likely to dispute. Killing Fair Use could, domestically, force the US to adopt more restrictive copyright laws, and internationally, prevent countries forced to adopt the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty and seeking to counterbalance it by adopting Fair-Use-like doctrines from doing so.

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