Tuesday, June 6, 2006

ideas: fair use of a comic strip

I just posted the greatest comic strip ever.

I could have just scanned my newspaper photocopy, but I wanted to do it legit. Displaying the entire thing is probably a copyright violation; I see that Web sites that sell original comic strip artwork only show half the strip. The United Media FAQ put me in touch with United Media licensing; I told them I wanted both a physical copy of the strip and rights to display it on my negligible-traffic Web site. $290 later, I have a large quality photostat, a huge TIFF image file, and the right to show this on my Web site for a year. (Of course the Internet Archive "Wayback Machine" makes expiration of information on the Web meaningless...)

I don't mind the expense, it feels good to do the right thing and maybe the estate of Charles Schultz gets a decent cut.

But what's odd is this strip was already part of my life, so there's any number of ways I could get the image on my site and claim "fair use".

  • If the strip was published in a book, then fair use would allow me to print a page of complete strips in a book review. Amazon Online Reader/Search Inside the Book already shows entire pages of the Fantagraphics' "The Complete Peanuts" books.
  • Or I could post a picture of my room at high resolution and invite viewers to zoom in on the framed strip (Firefox users, I recommend you enable Tools > Options > Advanced > General > Resize large images to fit in the browser window).
  • Or I could post a picture of me reminiscing over the newspaper, and invite viewers to zoom in.
  • snoopy.com features a rotating selection of Peanuts strips, so should they ever feature this strip I could do a screen capture as part of an article about the site, or point people to the Internet Archive for that day.
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