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Journalists Get Fair Use Spectacularly Wrong

Set of Principles in Fair Use for JournalismYou’d think they’d never created a Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalism, the way some journalists have fumbled the chance to clarify their fair use rights.

It all began with a belated licensing demand to journalism outlets by the guy who shot the video of a South Carolina cop murdering Walter Scott.  His Australia-based publicist could be forgiven—barely—on grounds of ignorance for making up a fanciful interpretation of fair use, which is U.S. law. But then the New York Times journalist bought the line, although she might be forgiven—barely—for being lied to by the Copyright Clearance Center, which is more or less in the business of misinforming people about fair use. And then the Poynter Institute put an alarmist and erroneous headline on its story, which itself mangles interpretation of fair use case law and fails to reference the Set of Principles, even though Poynter was a signatory and hosted the launch of the document.

Better idea: Read the Set of Principles. And if you prefer audio, try the Current podcast on the topic. Or catch this sleek corrective by Sarah Jeong on Forbes. Until then, here’s a hint: journalists have fair use rights to provide information to the public using copyrighted material. Not that there aren’t limits on that. They’re in the Principles. And the podcast.