Fair use is an intentionally vague and ambiguous concept. The fair-use doctrine of copyright law states that “under certain circumstances people can quote copyrighted work without permission or payment” (Aufderheide and Jaszi 3). The intent of copyright law is in place not only to protect the rights of the owners, but to also foster creativity and expression within society. The video that I found, “Phil Dunphy Rap Remix (Modern Family),” does just that: expresses the creativity of the person who put it together. The video takes various clips of Phil Dunphy doing/saying random things and puts them together into a rap that any viewer of the show, including myself, could appreciate and actually see him doing in the future since it’s so fitting of his eccentric personality.
When looking at the video and determining whether it falls under fair use or not, we first have to look at the four factors: “the character of the use,…the nature of the original work,…the amount taken…and the effect of taking on the market value of the work” (Aufderheide and Jaszi 24). In regards to the first factor dealing with the character of the use, this video is being used to entertain its audience just like the show it originated from, but it seems to want entertain the audience in a different way than they would be entertained from the show itself. The nature of the original is that of a mockumentary comedy, having all of the elements of your traditional comedy and putting those together with traditional elements of a documentary. For the rap remix video there were only about 45 seconds worth of Modern Family clips taken to create it since some of it is repeated throughout, and there’s also audio from a copyrighted song that plays in the background throughout the whole video. Personally, I do not believe that this video will have any dramatic effect on the market, especially not negatively. I feel that this video could actually be seen as promotion for the show and they could actually gain more viewers, leading to a possible increase in revenue. Also, the video is also being used for noncommercial purposes only because the uploader isn’t gaining any money from ads being ran in front of it or anything.
And then comes the ultimate question: whether or not the new work falls into one of the “three categories of fair use: transformative; productive; and orthogonal” (Aufderheide and Jaszi 19). If the video had been just clips of Phil Dunphy’s best lines on the show and they were stringed together in a montage, then that would not have been transformative because it would have been in the same context and wouldn’t have brought anything new to the original work. However, this video does bring something new to the table: splicing together clips of the show to create a very catchy rap, allowing it to be recognized as transformative.
Based on the dissection of this video using the four factor test and validating its transformativeness, I would argue that it does indeed fall under the category of fair use.
Aufderheide, Patricia and Peter Jaszi. Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print.
“Phil Dunphy Rap Remix (Modern Family).” YouTube. YouTube, 1 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.