Image Processing Reference
What Is Fair Use?
Fair use is the right you have when you purchase a media asset to view it or listen to
it wherever you happen to be. This is very simple in the case of an individual viewing
a program in private. If you think of the original tangible object as a license, then
as long as you have possession of that object, you should be able to enjoy playing
back the content on any device, at any location of your choice, for your own personal
pleasure provided you are only playing one copy at a time and no one else is
Then we need to consider a family viewing a DVD that is owned by the household.
That is fine. It's fair use, and I don't think anyone would argue. But what about an
enlarged family, or a family that lives in multiple locations? Once we move beyond the
simple scenarios, it is hard to clearly define the boundaries and becomes an argument
about whether there was an intent to defraud.
Copying your vinyl record collection to tape for listening to in the car seems to also
constitute fair use.
Copying your DVD movie to your laptop hard drive for playback on an airplane
is no different, but it is singled out as being questionable. That digital copy on your
hard drive is a bone of contention for Hollywood movie companies. They are
worried that it might be converted, duplicated, and given away without them earning
any revenue on the copy. Provided you still own the DVD and it isn't disposed of
while you retain the copy on your hard disk, there is no indication that a theft has
The crux of the matter is the unauthorized duplication and redistribution of content
without payment of royalties. You should have no doubt at all that this is theft, whereas
duplication for one's own personal convenience and enjoyment is “fair use.” Unfortunately,
fair use has not been framed in any legal sense and no one wants to become the test case to
establish exactly what the scope of fair use extends to.
Private Viewing of Purchased Media Assets
Purchasing a DVD or other movie file in order to watch at home includes the rights
to watch the program an unlimited number of times. Indeed this was the promise on
the front of many VHS movies. “Yours to keep forever,” the movie publishers said.
That may be true, but with the imminent demise of VHS players and the rapidly
declining amount of new VHS material being published, this promise has
become rather empty. Forever did not turn out to last as far into the future as we
The issue, then, is how do we protect the interests of the purchaser without remov-
ing all copyright protection and control? Perhaps it is permissible to allow that user to
ingest his or her movies into some kind of jukebox system but only allow them to be
shared within a household. Defining the limits of that household or private network needs
some careful consideration, however.