Run and Tell This: Knowing the Difference Between Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons Licenses

When trying to determine whether something can be considered fair use in the instance of “borrowing” from copyrighted works, the area can be slightly gray. Using the example of the Gregory Brothers’ video/musical project, Auto-tune the News (now called Songify This), where footage is taken from political speeches, news broadcasts, etc., and “remixed” into a musical parody, this would be considered using a portion(s) of copyrighted material for commentary or satire and thus (based on what I’ve read) qualifies for fair use status. However, if the owner of copyrighted material feels that his or her work has been illegally duplicated and infringes on copyright law, they can request that the work be taken down [from an Internet site]. This was not the case with the video that went viral in 2010 where the Gregory Brothers used a news broadcast that was posted on YouTube to create the “Bed Intruder Song”:

The Brothers later contacted the man featured in this video, Antoine Dodson, regarding selling the song on iTunes and agreed to split the profits with him. This song is now copyrighted and downloading it without paying for it is considered illegal and is a violation of copyright law. However, other parties have gone on to create their own versions of the song (considered fair use), which are not copyrighted. These parties would benefit from a Creative Commons license, allowing their work to be distributed according to their specifications (usually quite freely, as long as they’re given credit for their work).

The difference is this: copyright law states that no one is to use, duplicate, or distribute a work without the expressed consent of the owner (this also usually includes a payment of some kind). Fair use allows for the legal use and alteration of some copyrighted content under certain conditions. Creative Commons is an alternative to copyright and allows the owner to specify the freedoms and restrictions under which the content can be altered and/or shared. The intention here is for work to be protected while permitting it to be circulated and seen with less limitation, allowing for the potential to inspire creativity in others.

The author of this blog does not condone rape, attempted rape, or violence of any kind.



  1. Zina, I think it is great that you shared the example of a parody. There are so many parodies out in the world now and it made for an easy way for people to understand the differences between creative commons, fair use, and copyright laws. I asolutely loved your last part, “The intention here is for work to be protected while permitting it to be circulated and seen with less limitation, allowing for the potential to inspire creativity in others.” Sometimes people just need to use other’s creativity to be able to create their own piece of work. Creative Commons is a great way and you demonstrated this perfectly! Great job!


  2. Great post, and good example. I like this one because it is something that is so common. People mesh videos all the time and consider them fair use, but I feel that the CC License could give some comfort to the creator. I think it is important to have control over what restrictions are placed on your work, and CC is a great way to do it.


  3. Sweet example, Zina. I read your post 3 times because it was so interesting! I remember when that song came out, and I remember wondering at one point what the story was behind the video- so now I know. I think this showcases a really good way to bring a video into a post as well. It was short enough, and definitely entertaining enough, to keep one’s attention.


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