Legal Issues & Language Media

Some useful terms and acronyms


Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works—an international treaty, first drawn up in 1886. The United States became party to it in 1988.It does not address digital materials.
Betamax case—the Supreme Court case which determined that it is legal for home viewers to record broadcast TV programming for personal use. See Kastenmeier guidelines.
Bright line—a set maximum, whether as an amount or a percentage, of a copyrighted item which can be copied without infringing the law. This is an appealing concept, but in fact the quantity of a work used for educational purposes must be weighed up with the other factors in Fair Use. See Safe Harbor.

Circumvention of encryption—a technological “hack” of some kind which skips or decodes the encryption on a media item intended by the copyright holder to prevent some kinds of use
Classroom use—Use in face-to-face teaching with an instructor or the instructor’s representative present, in a nonprofit educational institution. In the U.S. this use does not require permission. In Canada, it does require permission and usually the purchase of an Institutional License.
Clearing rights—asking permission and if necessary paying royalties to copyright holders of copyrighted works cited in a new documentary or film. This can pose a problem for documentary makers or for anyone dealing with the history of the past 200 years.
Costco case—a 2010 Supreme Court split decision which would permit rights owners much expanded rights over copyrighted media produced outside the U.S.
Creative Commons—a nonprofit corporation which registers copyright in such a way as to allow the rights owners to specify which rights they want to retain, but otherwise allow free use of the copyrighted work.

Display—"To 'display' a work means to show a copy of it, either directly or by means of a film, slide, television image, or any other device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show individual images nonsequentially"—Title 17. See Perform.
Due diligence—a sincere, documented attempt.
DMCA or Digital Millenium Copyright Act—A 1998 U.S. law which criminalizes the circumvention of DRM, mitigates the responsibility of IP providers for the actions of their clients, and otherwise updates copyright law to apply to the internet and digital media. The law has been subject to biennial Rulemaking by the Library of Congress to determine whether it imposes undue burdens on users.
DRM or Digital Rights Management—a system of encryption or encoding which prevents users from playing, copying, or otherwise using a media item in ways not approved by the copyright holders.  Media players which conform to the standards of the rights owners are allowed to use the software or other system needed to decode the encryption legally. Restrictive licenses or contracts to which one must agree on download are also considered DRM. See EULA.

Educational license—see Institutional License.
Educational media—textbooks or other media created for profit whose primary market is students enrolled in classes or in a disciplined program of self-study of a subject.
Educational PPR—see Institutional License.
Educational use or Educational Fair Use—see Classroom Use. Classrom use is a legally specified extension of Fair Use.
Encryption—an attempt, successful or not, by means of scrambled or specially coded content, to prevent  users from some types of use (copying, downloading, in some cases playing) of a copyrighted item.  See DRM, CSS.
EULA or End User License Agreement—a contract to which the user must agree (usually by clicking in a dialogue box) before downloading software or media. Such a contract is binding.

Fair Use—use of a portion of a work for a valid purpose, including educational use. There are Four Factors which must all be taken into consideration in determining whether the use is fair. The use of the same amount of the same work might be fair in some circumstances and not in others.
First Sale—a well-established right in the U.S. of the purchaser of a copyrighted media item to re-sell, give away, rent, or lend the item to others. There are some exceptions; software is usually not subject to First Sale, and CDs cannot be loaned (e.g. by a library) because they are so easy to duplicate.

Georgia State case— A case in which several university presses sued university library for compiling electronic course packets for students at instructors' requests. Decided 5/11/2012 mostly in favor of the library.
Google Books—An attempt to create a searchable database of as many literary works as possible, scanning them and making them searchable before asking permission from the authors and other rights holders. So far this has run into court problems because many authors refuse to settle and because many of the works involved are Orphan Works.

Institutional license—A special contract offered by a media distributor (usally of video) to libraries and schools. The price is higher than the price charged for a home-use copy. The contract may specify that only the insitutional copy can be used in the classroom, or may include PPR for small group showings without admission charge. This type of contract is useful in, for example, Canada, where there is no legal right for educators to show a film in a classroom without permission. If a U.S. institution intends to use only first sale and classroom teaching rights, which are provided by law in the U.S., then in principle it can use any legally purchased copy, without permission or special license.
Kastenmeier guidelines—a set of guidelines drawn up by Congress in conjunction with educational TV producers to determine how material taped from TV may be used in an educational setting. In particular, time limitations are imposed (the tape must be shown to the class within 10 days after the broadcast and erased after 45 days).
Kinko’s case—a 1991 case in which publishers of books were successful in preventing copyshops from compiling and selling for profit course packets without permission from the copyright holders of the texts included in the packets.
Macrovision—a type of DRM which was first implemented to prevent copying of videotapes. It is the former (1983-2009) name of the Rovi Corporation, which provides copy protection among its services.

NTSC—see Video Standards.

Orphan work—a copyrighted work, not in the Public Domain, whose original author is difficult to contact, even after due diligence.

PAL—see Video Standards.
Parody—a category of fair use in a work which requires substantial citation of the work being parodied (enough to make the criticisms of it recognizable).
Perform—"To 'perform' a work means to recite, render, play, dance, or act it, either directly or by means of any device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show its images in any sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible"—title 17. See Display.
Permission—a document from the representatives of the copyright holder specifying that certain uses can be made of the copyrighted work.
PPR or Public Performance Rights—the right to display or perform a work or a copy of a work in public, whether to a closed group such as a club or with open admission, whether free or with an admission charge. Also, the payment required to secure this right. Usually PPR is targeted to one specific intended performance, and the fees depend on the expected size of the audience, the type of group, whether or not there is an admission charge, the popularity of the film to be shown, and so on. In the U.S., PPR is not required for classroom use in a nonprofit educational institution; in Canada, PPR is required. Some Institutional Licenses include a limited PPR in the purchase price.
Public Domain—the status of a work whose copyright has expired. All works before 1923 are public domain; after that date, it depends on how they were copyrighted and whether the copyright was renewed. Works in the public domain have sometimes been returned to copyright, especially in Europe. A public domain work which is changed in some way (e.g. digitally restored, given a new soundtrack) may be completely or partly under copyright in its new version.

RCE—an enhanced version of Regional Coding which prevents a DVD from playing on a multi-regional player.
Regional Coding—a DVD-specific system of encryption which prevents worldwide distribution of a film as soon as it is released on DVD. There are six regions in the world, and DVD player vendors in each region are (in principle) required to sell players which will only play DVDs coded for a single region. This allows distributors to control distribution of DVDs and sell rights country by country. Although this type of coding is not specified in the DMCA, in the 2003 Rulemaking by the Library of Congress it was noted that both those who requested the right to circumvent regional codes and the movie industry assumed that it was protected by the DMCA.
Rulemaking by the Library of Congress—the DMCA provides that the Librarian of Congress should rule, every three years, on requests for exemptions from the DMCA's provisions against circumventing technological protections. Rulings have been made in 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2010. The exemptions granted expire at the end of three years and must be resubmitted.

Safe Harbor—A guideline for practices that are not likely to be challenged in court as violations of Fair Use. In practice this may turn out to involve a bright line.
Sovereign Immunity—a doctrine according to which private entitites cannot sue state institutions without their consent in federal court. This is a possible defense in both the Georgia State and the UCLA cases.
Streaming—Currently a two-step process, involving converting hard media to a digital format compatible with the internet (often requiring circumvention of encryption), and then making it available to users from a streaming server. In principle, streamed audio or video should be difficult to download.

TEACH or Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act—A 2002 extension of of some of the exceptions for face-to-face teaching to digital materials presented in a password-protected website accessible only to students.

UCLA case—a case brought in December 2010 by an organization of mostly educational filmmakers, AIME, against UCLA for streaming video from its library to students in specific courses. Dismissed in October 2011 on the grounds that AIME was not injured by the university's practices (though some of its members might be injured).

Video Standards—TV playback methods established early on in the days of broadcast TV. The U.S. uses NTSC, while much of Europe uses the PAL system (which gives brighter colors and more "information"). France had a system called SECAM but this seems to have been replaced with PAL in the new millenium. This is not an encryption method but a quality of the video itself. There are no legal restrictions on playback of various standards, but it requires a multi-standard player plus either a converter or a multi-standard TV. Digital playback (on a computer or through a projector) does not require conversion but requires a player that can play that standard.

WIPO or World Intellectual Property Organization—An agency of the United Nations, devoted to the protection of intellectual property rights worldwide. It registers patents and encourages the market in patented and copyrighted materials.