Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Can I Make a 90's Blog Using TV Images?

Dear Rich: I've recently created a 90's blog, where I would basically like to make posts with reviews and commentary about various things from the 90's (TV shows, music, video games, etc). I'm wondering...would it be considered "fair use" if I use a picture based on what I'm posting about? For example, if I'm reviewing a TV show, I would have a picture from the show in the post, if I'm giving my thoughts on an album, I would have a picture of that particular album in the post. Based on things that I've read on your website, I don't think that I would be in violation of any copyright laws, being that I'm only using a picture as part of what I'm reviewing. But, also based on what I've read, this seems like a very gray area that gets very confusing. I just wanted to get your opinion. Side note - I'm signed up on Google Adsense and Amazon Associates, so in theory, if my blog ever becomes huge, I could probably make money off of it (I'm not sure if that factors into anything). Although, with Amazon Associates, I would most likely just be promoting what I was reviewing anyway. 
The fair use privilege allows the public to make limited use of copyrighted works without obtaining permission from the copyright owners. One of the reasons for fair use is to encourage criticism and comment on copyrighted works. Quoting or excerpting a work in a review is a classic example of a fair use. Including a picture of a work you’re reviewing is also a good example of a fair use—this is done all the time in reviews. So long as you don’t use any more of the works involved than is necessary for your reviews, your intended use of works from the 1990s in your blog should qualify as a fair use. That said, not every copyright owner understands or agrees with the fair use rule, and some may complain even though your use is allowed by the copyright law.
Answered by Stephen Fishman, author of The Copyright Handbook.