Fair Use of Screen Shots in Sony Vs. Bleem

Fair Use of Screen Shots in Sony Vs. Bleem

Friday, October 24th, 2008

I don’t know how I missed this court case before. Back in May 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit made an important ruling about screen shots and fair use. Essentially, the court said that screen shots from video games qualify as fair use. This is great news for those of us who use screen shots from film and television in our critical work as it sets a precedent for the fair use defense of them.

The case was one of a software company called Bleem that used screen shots from Sony PlayStation games in order to promote one of its product. That product was a software emulator — a piece of software that emulate a PS console so one could play games on a computer. The whole emulator deal was on shaky legal grounds and Sony eventually sued them out of business. Details may be found in this Wikipedia article:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleem!

But the emulator’s legality was not what was being consider by the Court. Rather, they were concerned with Bleem’s use of screen shots in its promotion of the emulator. And, in this regard, they found in favor of Bleem: screen shots of video games in a competitor’s advertising are still fair use.

It’s a small leap from there to see that screen shots from film and television would also qualify.

Go read the entire ruling! It’s quite illuminating and surprisingly tech savvy. You can find it here:

www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/Sony_v_Bleem.htm

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