Fair(ish) Use

When I read about the Fair Use assignment, I knew I wanted to involve a meme.  You may remember this meme from my reflection on Chapter 6 of Doug Belshaw’s book.  Forgive me for recycling, but I can’t help but jump at the opportunity to examine this meme in light of Fair Use. What makes this meme educational is not so much the images themselves (which are all copyrighted, by the way…I’ll share their origins later), but how each of them come together to create a visual representation of my hometown of Sitka, Alaska.


Sitka Alaska meme


What the Lower 48 think we do:

As any proper Alaskan should know, people who have no experience with Alaska (or at least the Pacific Northwest) have pre-existing notions that Alaska is a dark, snowy place where people live in igloos and polar bears run rampant.  This image, which I have not been able to find the original source for, is a humorous representation of Alaskan stereotypes I have heard (despite Sitka being in island in a temperate rainforest).

What the Internet thinks we do:

You may have seen this image passed around via email, on Facebook, or on the news a few years ago.  It depicts a kayaker paddling directly into the open mouth of a humpback whale.  This photoshopped image went viral on the Internet after it’s creation by Sitkan photographer, Tim Shobe.

What the Discovery Channel thinks we do:

This one was inspired by a friend who once said: “They should just call Discovery Channel the ‘Alaska Channel.'” For whatever reason, this form of “reality” television has found a comfortable home in Alaska.  Although they’re not always the best representation of my home, most of these shows are still pretty entertaining.

What Hollywood thinks we do:

This image is a screenshot from the movie The Proposal (owned by Touchstone Pictures), in a scene in which Betty White “speaks, sings, and dances” in traditional Tlingit fashion.  While it’s certainly butchered and could be considered highly offensive, it is a Hollywood representation of Sitka, Alaska.

What we think we do:

This image is copyrighted by Sitkan photographer Dan Evans and was used with permission by KCAW Raven Radio.  It depicts Dan himself sitting on the peak of Arrowhead getting ready to watch a meteor shower.  The one thing I think most Sitkans can agree on is that Sitka is probably the most beautiful town in Alaska…weather permitting, of course.

What we actually do:

Sitka gets an average 132 inches of rainfall each year.  I believe this photo from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution speaks for itself.



Why It’s Fair Use

While making this meme, I was very conscientious about Fair Use.  I referenced the Copyright Checklist from Cornell University frequently to ensure my argument for Fair Use would hold up in court (you know, if it ever got to that point).  The checklist helped me to further breakdown ideas in the four factors that make up Fair Use.

Purpose of Use
The purpose of this meme is not for profit.  While it may use exact copies of the original images, the images have been pieced together and labeled in such a way to create a new piece of work.  It serves as a representational image of a specific culture I identify with.  It was created for educational purposes: as part of both my own scholarship in learning about Fair Use and as a social (albeit humorous) criticism of various representations of Sitka, Alaska.

Nature of Copyrighted Work
All copyrighted material used to create this new work has been previously published.  Aside from one of the images, I have been able to track down the original source of the first publication. I admit it could seem unfavorable that some of these images were published as creative pieces (particularly the photograph of the humpback whale).  I hope it is enough that the use of the humpback image is more about issue of Internet virality rather than the creative work itself.

Amount Copied
No one single image used in the meme can or should be considered the “heart” of the work.  Six separate images come together to create this meme.  In fact, the most distinguishing quality of this style of meme compared to others is the use of six images.  Thus, six is the appropriate number and should not be considered more than necessary for my educational purposes.

Effect on Market for Original
Because of the size of the copyrighted image in use, and the fact that it is used in conjunction with other images, it should not have any significant effect on the potential market of the work. It would be difficult to equally substitute the use of an image in this meme for the purchase of the original.  Although I have posted it on the Web, it has been placed in a personal, educational space to fulfill a specific assignment. It’s a place where most of the traffic is generated from my classmates. Should this meme be taken and shared, I have provided a disclaimer in the bottom right-hand corner.

4 comments on “Fair(ish) Use

  1. Well done, Hailey! I really like your meme and I think you did a very good job in covering all your bases regarding fair use.

  2. Hailey – I think a theme that we’re developing in this course is a revisit of ownership; that perhaps it is not the photographer of a singular behavior or landscape that owns the first rights, it’s the people/place. I like that you discuss blatant misrepresentation. Is (to borrow from Belshaw) a humorous re-mix an okay use of an image? To misrepresent people and cultures? Hmmm.

    1. Speaking of Belshaw, I have to bring up his concept of ambiguity here. In making this meme (a humorous remix of previous works) am I misrepresenting a people or culture? Is a remix a misrepresentation of the original or is it a separate entity complete with it’s own intrinsic value? I think this is the difference between Copyright and Fair Use. Fair Use implies a shift in original works so that a different meaning emerges (and obviously fair use outlines several factors that need to be considered so people can’t just claim Fair Use whenever they please). We’re starting to get into some deep philosophical stuff here…

      1. That’s a solid way of considering fair use, with the caveat that the locus of a “shift” leading to “different meaning” may happen in the work that is being used or in the context (or both).

        I’d be very interested to see you, Sarah and Dan continue to explore culture, cultural appropriation and “Fair Use” (as metaphorical as the latter might be when it is built on top of another metaphor of cultural productions as art).

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