Advice From Attorney > Info From Internet > Nothing

Infographic_CanIUseThatPicture4

Happy Friday dear readers! I had a post planned this week about the whole GamerGate debacle sweeping through Twitter like wildfire, but then my wife went into labor on Monday night and long story short, I'm a dad now and all my energy has been spent taking care of my wife and infant daughter Hannah.

But in the very little downtime I've had at the hospital, I found this chart online and thought I'd share it with you. It lays out in fairly clear terms when you can and cannot use someone else's copyrighted work. I initially hesitated to share this chart because while the information is generally correct, the law in reality is never this clear cut, and reducing it to a simple phrase or image can be a dangerous proposition. As I wrote last October:

I like to give away lots of free legal information on this blog because I think it’s important for artists to have a basic understanding about how the law interacts with them. I was once in your shoes. I’ve had my ideas stolen, my copyrights compromised, and been in situations where a little legal knowledge could have saved me from a jam or two. At the same time, you can’t cut lawyers entirely out of the equation simply because you possess that knowledge. Legal information without analysis is just raw data. It can’t give you advice or insight. It can’t examine your specific situation and provide you with synthesized options based on that data (i.e. just because you know the fair use factors doesn’t mean you know how to apply them). No two situations are the same and everyone’s needs will differ depending on a variety of unforeseeable factors. Only a properly trained lawyer familiar with your circumstances will be able to navigate that minefield.

This is a reasonable view and I stand by it. Law without anlysis is just data, and data without analysis is useless. That said, I'm sharing this chart anyway because some of you may not have the finances to hire a lawyer, and having some information is better than having none. In fact, I've whittled it down to a pretty simple formula.

Advice From Attorney > Info From Internet > Nothing

So hang onto this chart and use it when you need to, but just remember that this is only part of the story and it may not apply to your situation. Be careful out there and call me or another qualified attorney if you have any questions about what this all means.

I'll be back soon with my thoughts on GamerGate and some other recent news items. Until then, Cheers!

Greg Kanaan

The [Legal] Artist, Boston, MA, USA