Fair Use in public college

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  • As the advisor for my student newspaper, I am inquiring as to using pictures from the college website. In a recent issue, an administrator who is responsible for the alcohol policy on campus was photographed at a fundraiser with a glass of wine in his hand.

    Since the no tolerance policy is enforced, the college's student newspaper thought it germane to show this photo along with a story. Recently, a disclaimer went up on the college site, stating copyrighted work on the site must have permission to use.

    I believe this is fair use and permission is not needed. Obviously, the college hoisted up this disclaimer after the administrator fiasco.

    Does the college newspaper need permission from any college department for photo usage?
  • Assuming the photos were taken by a college employee, the college probably does own a copyright. But their disclaimer does not take away the fair use rights that others have; fair use is a type of permission to use.

    Remember that the administrator, whose picture is taken, does not hold a copyright in the picture of himself. There may be privacy rights involved, but I can't see what they would be in the situation you describe.

    In addition to doing a good faith fair use analysis, you should ask yourself two questions. First, is the college really likely to sue its own newspaper for infringement? Second, would they use this disclaimer as an excuse to discipline newspaper staffers for violating college policy? If the answer to the second question is yes, would you want to fight the issue? (sorry, that was a third question).

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