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Scott Bryant
Statesboro, GA
Photojournalist for the Statesboro (GA) Herald
Recent Activity
Man, Fair Use is a can of worms, ain't it? Maybe we shouldn't give legal advice, but we should do a better job of pointing out what Copyright Law says about Fair Use, because most folks just don't know. According to the Copyright Office itself: "Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair. 1.The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes 2. The nature of the copyrighted work 3.The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole 4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work" The biggest problem with the way the law is written is that it is rather vague, and individual judges essentially have sole discretion to interpret the law. The results in litigation have been inconsistent and sometimes conflicting. The concept of "transformation" has come up repeatedly in case law, too, as "mashup" art culture (in music and the visual arts) and other derivative works have proliferated. The questions the courts now consider is whether or not a work which incorporates copyrighted works into a "new" work is 1) Has the material you have taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning? and 2) Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings? Law suits against Buzzfeed should be instructive. Like many media outlets, they claim Fair Use while using photos in their popular lists. They actually claim their lists are "transformative" in nature. The courts will have to decide this. Currently, Buzzfeed is wildly profitable and considered a potential business model for the news media in general. Those decisions will influence the practices of the news media going forward.
I think that short exchange between Tlumacki and the police officer really underscores this discussion about professionalism and motivation, as well as public perceptions. There have been constant reports of law enforcement officers denying journalists and citizens alike their First Amendment rights to record them performing their public duties. And there seems to be a lot of animosity between law enforcement and the news media these days, especially in big cities. Boston is different. This isn't a matter of police officers ordering folks to turn off their cameras while they're making an arrest. "Don't exploit the situation" is a request that come from a different place. It has a different motivation, and one that all professional photojournalists should remember. Sometimes it's important to remember those core missions. A photojournalist's core mission is to witness and document. A police officer's core mission is to serve and protect. So perhaps that's important to keep in mind when pointing your camera at people who are suffering. Protecting victims is a professional instinct for most police officers. And trust me, shooting photographs or video of tragedy is not a human instinct – it comes from that journalistic conviction Alex speaks of. And I bring this up only because I have seen more than a couple of photojournalists belligerently assert their rights in the heat of the moment. Don't get me wrong. First Amendment rights appear to be under fire everywhere. And the importance of protecting and exercising those rights is poorly understood – not only by law enforcement, but the by public in general. Journalists, more than ever, need to assert them in order to inform the public so people might make educated decisions about their own lives and about public policy. A strong degree of professional detachment is necessary to do the job, but diplomacy, tact, and empathy are also benchmarks for professional photojournalists. I think this exchange is instructive. The police officer expressed his feelings in the heat of the moment. Tlumacki considered them. Then both went about doing their jobs as they were trained. That's the way it should be. When the motivations of photojournalists are questioned by the public, personally I think the media companies that journalists work for ought to be blamed more than anyone else. They have made it abundantly clear that their only motivation is to maximize profit at all costs and are progressively abdicating their obligations as the Fourth Estate in our government's system of checks and balances. Company shareholders don't care about the future of journalism, they only care about profits from the last quarter. Currently, professionalism is being undervalued by the people who have traditionally paid journalists. The only recourse is to go directly to the the people who journalists serve – their audience. The Public. And we need to engage them in frequent discussions about the role journalists play in society. That's the only way to establish the value of professionalism. Thanks, Alex.
Scott Bryant is now following The Typepad Team
Apr 19, 2013