Fair use + online videos = dramatic chipmunk!

Those of us who have been on the web for some time are well aware of the “mashup” concept. Recently, this idea has traveled from software engineering to just plain old web 2.0 fun. Hang out in any forum (like Fark.com) for 20 minutes and you’ll see an example of fun “mashups” of everything from funny videos to ironic motivational posters. But recently some people have begun to question whether these “mashups,” when they use copyrighted material might run foul of the fair use doctrine.

What is clear is… well… nothing is clear when it comes to fair use. It’s a real mess and some intrepid professor’s at American University want to help clear it up and so, they did what profs do: they published a paper. The folks over at the Chronicle read the paper and decided to do an interview of the authors, which they turned into a video, which contains copyrighted material, which is fair use.

See, how simple that is?

So, what’s dramatic chipmunk and why do I care? Well, let me tell you. It was this funny internet meme that made all the rounds a few months ago (you can see it at about 2:00 into the film in the link above) it was so popular and so funny that I even made one (without the music).

It turns out that that chipmunk and the music are both copyrighted. So, should YouTube pull the video? Should I be allowed to make a mashup and post it here? Is my new item my copyrighted material?

I feel pretty safe with what I’ve done because it’s totally new, intended for a different audience, and well, I’m publishing it here as an example for other people to learn from. It’s still unclear if YouTube is going to pull those types of videos I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

As for you, you copyright infringing web 2.0 user, you’ll have to read the guidelines that the profs published to see if your mashups are legal or not.

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