Transformative TIME

The TIME Magazine Corpus of America  (TMCOA) is a tool hosted by Brigham Young University that, “allows you to quickly and easily search more than 100 million words of text of American English from 1923 to the present, as found in TIME magazine.”

To test the tool (and to show my state pride), I decided to search for news articles containing the word “dairy.” The search yielded 1,182 results. 210 from the year 1950 alone. I quickly clicked through to the article, The Revolt that Failed, and found the qualifying phrase.

“In the heat of debate, Wisconsin’s butter-loving Alexander Wiley pleaded with his colleagues to remember that  ‘the dairy cow is the foster mother of the race’.”

The full article from January 30, 1950 is hosted on the  TIME Magazine website but is restricted to paid subscribers. A small excerpt of the article appears, but not the sentence that I found using the TMCOA tool.

The TIME article is certainly copyrighted. The exclusive rights of copyright include: distributing the copies of the work, displaying the work publicly, and creating derivative works. It could be argued that the TMCOA infringes upon these rights. However, I believe that

The authors of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyrightargue that the typical four-factor Fair Use test can be distilled into three factors:

    1. Was the copyrighted material used for a different purpose?
    2. Was the amount of material taken appropriate?
    3. Is it a reasonable use within its field or discipline?

The first factor is really asking if the use it transformative. In Perfect 10 v. Google, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals noted the following about search engines:

 “A search engine transforms the image into a pointer directing a user to a source of information. Just as a “parody has an obvious claim to transformative value” because “it can provide social benefit, by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one,” a search engine provides social benefit by incorporating an original work into a new work, namely, an electronic reference tool.

By adding a search function to the magazine articles, TMCOA is clearly making a transformative use of copyrighted material. So far, so good.

The second factor asks about the amount of content. TMCOA will display only an excerpt from TIME Magazine article, including the relevant phrase. Still good.

The third standard is really asking about the best practices for an industry. Consulting the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, it seems clear that TMCOA meets its best practices and is furthering its mission  “to enable teaching, learning, and research” among the “general public.” Score!

To conclude, TMCOA is free to make fair use of TIME Magazine’s content.

And I am free to note that “Wisconsin” is the 33rd most common word to appear in an article with the word “dairy”. And the #1 most common state.

Take that, Vermont and California.


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2 thoughts on “Transformative TIME

  1. JJ says:

    California’s cows are bankrupt anyway. Has anyone eve heard of California cheddar?

    It almost seems silly: Time magazine printed information 50 years ago, that it wanted to reach people. That’s their mission, and it made financial sense to do so at the time. 50 years later, why limit access to the information? Why enforce copyright infringement laws in this case, if you’re TIME? As long as someone cites the source, do we really need to hoard the content?

  2. drdankerr says:

    You make a persuasive case for fair use — exactly what I was looking for. I always was partial to the dairy from upstate NY, but I will concede that Wisconsin is the cheese capital.

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