Blog Post

The Concept of Fair Use as Defined by the Copyright Law of the United States

By Steven Barket
Las Vegas

NOTE: I am not an attorney, nor can I give legal advice. These are my opinions formed over decades of work.

Section 107 of the Copyright Act, which outlines the concept of fair use, states the following:

“… the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

This is an important concept with regards to the digital age, which is only still just in its infancy.

In the world of Google and online search results, we see billions, trillions, actually, of images and articles pop up regardless of the search terms we use to enact that search. Please be aware, that just because you can find it online, that does not mean that it’s free for you to use. There most often are copyrights attached to each and every one of those search results.

So when is it “fair use” to use something you find online? It’s actually very limited. The statement, “but I found it online” is not a defense for violating copyright. Just because you find something online, doesn’t mean it’s yours to use. You violate copyright when you use something someone else created — whether it’s an image or the written word — if you publish it and use it and present it as if it is your own work. Even if you credit the originator, that doesn’t mean it’s fair game for you to use under fair use.

The concept of using a copyrighted image under the Copyright Act’s fair use doctrine is limited. You may, in some cases, be able to use a copyrighted creation “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching.” That doesn’t give you “carte blanche” usage rights. For example, you can’t just throw up an image you found for your blog post or Instagram post or Facebook post on, say, boating, to illustrate your post just because you found it online.

Once someone creates an original work by committing it to paper, for example, or molded in clay, or painted on canvas or captured with a camera, or original writing committed to the drive of your computer, that piece of work instantly and automatically receives copyright protection.

Be careful what and how you choose to use something you found online. For all the info you’d care to know regarding the concept of fair use, please go to this link:

The Supreme Court’s Anonymous Blogger Rulings

Supreme Court of the United States / Photo by Don Taylor

NOTE: I am not an attorney, nor can I give legal advice. These are my opinions formed over decades of work and experience, much of which included 80-plus court cases when I was an expert court advisor.

By Steven Barket
Las Vegas

A bit of a roundup regarding rulings by the United States Supreme Court on the subject of anonymous blogging:

“The right to remain anonymous is a fundamental component of our right to free speech, and it applies every bit as much in the digital world as it does in the physical one. In the words of the U.S. Supreme Court in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, ‘Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.’ ”

The freedom to publish anonymously is protected by the First Amendment, and, as Talley indicates in the write up in the first link below, extends beyond the literary realm to the advocacy of political causes:

• Talley v. California, 362 U. S. 60

• Delaware State Supreme Court Ruling in favor of anonymous blogging:

• From First Amendment encyclopedia:

• ACLU Wins case on preserving anonymity in Michigan:

• United States District Court for the Northern District of California:

• Maryland Court of Appeals: A big win for anonymous Web speech

• How the First Amendment Protects Anonymous Speech Online

Notes on the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press

By Steven Barket
Las Vegas

NOTE: I am not an attorney, nor can I give legal advice. These are my opinions formed over decades of work and experience, much of which included 80-plus court cases when I was an expert court advisor.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These two essential liberties are enshrined in our nation’s founding document to protect the rights of citizens to express themselves without fear of censorship, intimidation, or retaliation.

Freedom of speech, often considered the cornerstone of all rights, means that individuals are free to say whatever they want, as long as their speech does not provoke violence, directly threaten another person, or incite criminal activity. The freedom of speech also protects speech that others may find offensive, provocative, or controversial. The Supreme Court has developed a long-standing tradition of affording broad protections to speech under the First Amendment. As a result, even speech that is unpopular or objectionable may still be legally permissible.

Freedom of speech also encompasses the right to peaceful assembly and protest. Citizens have the right to gather in public places, hold rallies, march, and protest government policies or actions peacefully. As long as the protests do not turn violent or infringe upon the rights of others, the government cannot suppress them.

Freedom of the press is also enshrined within the First Amendment, ensuring that the press is free to report news and information without censorship or government restriction. The news media’s role is to act as a critical watchdog on the government, holding elected officials accountable for their actions and providing citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions. Some say the mainstream media has moved away from this role and have become “lapdogs” for the government and merely parrot back talking points that government officials feed to them.

Freedom of the press is vital to our democracy because it allows the media to report on a wide range of issues, including corruption, injustices, and human rights abuses. This freedom ensures that there are no off-limits topics, that the government cannot suppress journalism it deems unfavorable, and it provides citizens with accurate information on matters that directly affect their lives.

While the freedoms of speech and of the press are essential to protecting democracy, there have been instances in which the government has attempted to restrict these rights. Often this comes from the congressional levels or from a president who is frustrated that the media is continually discovering frustrating information or uncomfortable truths. Indeed, press freedom is not immune to outside threats, at times becoming knee-deep in propaganda or media biases. It is still essential that such vital rights remain untouched.

The First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press are central to democracy, allowing citizens to express themselves freely and the media reporting about important issues without fear of government censorship. The right of citizens to speak freely and to criticize government actions and policies is sacrosanct to sustaining a healthy democracy. As we continue to face challenging political and social issues, our commitment to these fundamental Freedoms must remain strong. These guarantees of our Constitution must continue to be upheld despite challenges and criticism.

Copyright and Fair Use

Click on image above to go to the full Copyright Law of the United States.

NOTE: I am not an attorney, nor can I give legal advice. These are my opinions formed over decades of work.

Copyright law is designed to protect the rights of creators over their original works, including literary, artistic, musical, and other creative works. While copyright law provides strong protections for creators, it also recognizes the importance of allowing some uses of copyrighted works without permission, through the fair use doctrine.

Fair use is a legal concept that allows for limited use of copyrighted material without permission from the owner of the copyright. Fair use is based on the principle that the use of some copyrighted material is necessary for certain purposes, such as criticism, commentary, and education, and that such use does not harm the market for the original work.

In order to determine whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is fair use, several factors are considered. These factors include the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole work, and the effect of the use on the potential market for the original work.

The purpose and character of the use refers to the reason for which the copyrighted material is being used. For example, using a copyrighted work for educational purposes is likely to be considered fair use, while using the same work for commercial purposes may not be. The nature of the copyrighted work is also an important consideration. For example, using a short excerpt from a factual news article may be more likely to be deemed fair use than using a substantial portion of a creative fiction work.

The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole work refers to the quantity of the copyrighted work that is used. Using a small portion of a larger work may be more likely to be considered fair use than using a large portion. The effect of the use on the potential market for the original work considers whether the use of the copyrighted work undermines the ability of the copyright holder to profit from their work.

The fair use doctrine is vital to ensure that the advancements in technology do not restrict the free flow of information and opportunities to learn new things, especially regarding new creative works. Fair use allows scholars, artists, businesses, and ordinary people ways to interact with and remix existing content in new ways, opening doors to new ideas, businesses and innovations.

There are many examples of how fair use has been a critical doctrine for educational use of copyright materials. For example, professors can use small portions of copyrighted works to illustrate points in lectures, or students may utilize copyrighted resources as examples to help them understand a concept or easily access information. Fair use also plays a central role in many artistic endeavors, such as sampling and remixing.

Despite the legal protections, fair use does not permit unlimited use of copyrighted materials. The purpose of fair use is to allow for limited and transformative uses of copyrighted material that do not infringe on the creator’s possible income from their copyrighted work. Some companies and individuals may attempt to claim fair use as a means to justify their use of copyrighted material. In some cases, these claims may be valid, but in many instances, they may be unfounded. In other words, the fair use doctrine is not a guarantee against legal risk, and professional counsel should be sought if facing a potential legal dispute.

Fair use is vital to the free flow of information and innovation in society. Copyright law is crucial to preserve the rights of creators, which fair use upholds by allowing for limited use while at the same time stopping infringements. It is essential to be mindful of the legal limits, and when in doubt, individuals and businesses should consult legal counsel when utilizing copyrighted resources.

Celebrate Our Independence; Celebrate Your Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. (To continue reading the full text of this document on the National Archives website, please click here: Declaration of Independence).

The Legalities of Blogging Anonymously

The Lone Ranger & the art of wearing a mask online

By Steven Barket
Las Vegas

NOTE: I am not an attorney, nor can I give legal advice. These are my opinions formed over decades of work.

Blogging anonymously has become increasingly popular in recent years, as people seek to protect their privacy and express their opinions without fear of retribution. However, there are legal implications to blogging anonymously that need to be considered, particularly when it comes to issues such as defamation, copyright infringement, and cyberbullying.

One of the primary legal issues surrounding anonymous blogging is defamation. Defamation involves making false statements that harm a person’s reputation. If a blogger makes false statements about someone else and their reputation is damaged as a result, they can be sued for defamation. The keyword in these sentences is the word, “false.” The legal standards for proving defamation can be complex, and it can be challenging to identify the blogger if that person is posting anonymously. Also, truth trumps all in defamation when it comes to “outing” someone. A defense against defamation is truth.

In some cases, bloggers may be able to avoid legal liability if they can prove that the statements they made were true or constituted fair comment. For example, if a blogger makes a negative statement about a company’s products or services based on their own experiences, they may be able to claim that their statements were truthful and constitute fair comment. Opinions usually are OK, but publishing a negative opinion about a person or a product can still get you into legal trouble.

Copyright infringement is another legal issue that needs to be considered when it comes to anonymous blogging. If a blogger uses copyrighted material without permission, they can be sued for copyright infringement. This can include using images, videos, or written content without proper attribution or permission. There is a concept known as fair use, however, which is outlined in the Copyright Act, which I’ll address in subsequent posts.

Taking steps to protect one’s identity while blogging anonymously can be legally complex and require careful attention to avoid the possibility of causing legal issues. Many bloggers use some combination of pseudonyms, anonymous domain registrations and/or VPNs to protect their identities from being linked to their blogs. While these measures help to protect anonymity, they do not provide completely bulletproof protection from legal claims.

Finally, cyberbullying is another concern when it comes to anonymous blogging. Cyberbullying involves using electronic means to harass, intimidate or threaten someone. This can take various forms, such as creating fake social media profiles to harass someone or posting defamatory statements online.

While most people may think that they are anonymous when using the internet, the reality is that it is often possible to identify anonymous bloggers. For example, law enforcement agencies may be able to trace the blogger’s IP address or search for other identifying information. Using a VPN to mask your identity can sometimes make it more difficult to discover an person who wishes to remain anonymous online, but it’s not complete, fool-proof protection.

Blogging anonymously carries legal risks that need to be carefully considered. These risks can include legal liability for defamation, copyright infringement, and cyberbullying. It is important to be aware of these legal considerations and to take steps to protect one’s identity while blogging anonymously. This can include using a pseudonym, anonymous domain registrations or, as I mentioned, VPNs. At the same time, bloggers need to be aware of the potential legal risks of what they are posting and should carefully consider the content of their blog before publishing it. By doing so, bloggers can express their opinions while minimizing their risk of legal liability. In blogs or websites created and published in the United States, persons can cloak themselves in the protection of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech and the right to a free press. However that’s sometimes not enough to protect yourself these days.

Steganography: Concealing Messages in Plain Sight

NOTE: I am not an attorney, nor can I give legal advice. These are my opinions formed over decades of work.

Steganography, derived from the Greek words “steganos” (meaning “covered”) and “graphein” (meaning “writing”), is the art of concealing information within seemingly innocuous objects or data, enabling covert communication. Unlike encryption, which focuses on scrambling the content, steganography focuses on hiding the existence of the message itself. In this essay, I’ll explore the concept of steganography, its history, techniques, and its applications in the digital age.

Historical Background: The roots of steganography can be traced back to ancient times when secret messages were hidden within wax tablets or tattooed on shaved heads. Over the centuries, various techniques emerged, including invisible inks, microdots, and even hidden compartments. With the advent of computers and the rise of digital communication, steganography found a new domain in which to thrive.

Techniques and Methods: Steganography techniques leverage the imperceptibility of alterations made to a cover medium. In the digital realm, popular methods involve embedding secret information within images, audio files, videos, or even text. The least significant bit (LSB) technique, one of the most commonly used methods, replaces the least significant bit of each pixel in an image with the hidden data. This change is often imperceptible to the human eye but can store substantial amounts of information. Other approaches include modifying the frequency domain of audio signals or hiding data within the whitespace of a text document.

Applications and Significance: The significance of steganography lies in its diverse range of applications. In the realm of law enforcement, it can be employed for covert surveillance or intelligence gathering. It enables activists to share sensitive information in oppressive regimes without raising suspicion. Steganography also plays a crucial role in digital watermarking, where information is embedded to protect copyright and authenticate digital media. Furthermore, it has been used in the field of cybersecurity to hide malware or establish covert channels within seemingly harmless files.

In an era where communication is increasingly monitored, steganography offers a powerful tool for covertly exchanging information while preserving privacy and security.

In summary, steganography is an ancient art that has evolved to thrive in the digital age. By concealing information within innocent-looking carriers, it allows for covert communication while minimizing the chances of detection. Through techniques like LSB embedding and modifying frequency domains, messages can be hidden within various mediums, such as images, audio files, and text. Steganography finds applications in law enforcement, activism, digital watermarking, and cybersecurity, highlighting its significance in today’s interconnected world. As technology continues to advance, the study and development of steganography will remain crucial in maintaining privacy, security, and the free flow of information.