Professionals give advice about media safety

Photo by Evan Bourtis
Photo by Evan Bourtis

By Evan Bourtis, Staff Writer

Two local attorneys, along with Juan Vazquez from WXXI News, came to the St. John Fisher on Dec. 2 to discuss the rules for using online media legally.  

Social media law attorney Scott Malouf and intellectual property law attorney Alana Fuierer discussed fair use, copyright laws and using social media content in their presentation in Pioch Hall.  

A key theme discussed at the event, which was organized by The Rochester Media Association and Fisher’s Media and Communication Department, was fair use. Fuierer described fair use as the exception to copyright laws. Fuierer explained that if a judge rules that someone is using another person’s work fairly according to four criteria, the person using the work is not penalized under the Copyright Act.  

According to Vazquez, knowing what is or isn’t fair use is important for those working in a newsroom.

“It’s common that we have to do stuff like this [decide if something is fair use], especially when we are using music or an image that we may not have in our library,” said Vazquez.

One of the criteria of fair use that Fuierer discussed was the purpose of using the creator’s work. For example, if someone uses the pictures taken by another individual and significantly transforms them from the original, the new piece is exempt from copyright laws.

One example of a court case that argued fair use due to transformation was Shepard Fairey’s stencil of Barack Obama. Fairey transformed a photograph taken by an Associated Press photographer into a colorful poster of Obama, which he began to sell. Fuierer explained that the stencil was found not to be fair use because it was not transformed enough from the original.  

Malouf found this example interesting because of how subjective a ruling of transformation can be.

“I really enjoyed looking at variants of is this transformative enough,” said Malouf. “Adding a couple small elements didn’t really transform it. Adding a number of elements transformed it a lot.”

Vazquez also thought this conversation was intriguing.

“What’s particularly interesting that I found was the whole discussion about transformation and that transformation is a big key in if something is fair use or not,” said Vazquez. “And that’s actually something I didn’t really know until I walked in here.”

Another topic in the presentation was permission to use online content, particularly from social media. Malouf gave some examples of court cases over fair use that involved people who took content from social media.

Malouf discussed how a journalist used an image, from Facebook, of a girl who changed her eye color to purple. Since the photo already gained national attention and the reporter included background information from the Facebook page, the image was ruled fair use.

“When working with Scott [Malouf], I looked at things differently, since I tend to be focused on copyright infringement and he brought in to light the publicity type issues for me,” said Fuierer.

After Malouf discussed examples of fair use in journalism with Vazquez and Fuierer, he said that he learned a lot about how reporters use social media in their reports.

“I think I learned a lot in terms of how working journalists are using digital information, such as a Facebook profile, and what ways they want to try to capture it and turn it into something else that gets information out to the public,” said Malouf.

Vazquez suggested that those who have to deal with fair use should be aware of the original source or the creator of the content they using.

“A lot of it is just doing your homework to know where you are sourcing some of your information,” said Vazquez. “That’s one of the biggest things. And that’s one of the conversations we have at WXXI, when we’re trying to use a picture or a video.”

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