Is using the portion of a texton the back of a DVD, book, or game box considered fair use?

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Is using the portion of a texton the back of a DVD, book, or game box considered fair use?

I am setting up a website that will profile movies, books, and games. The site will generate revenue in part through the sale of the items and related merchandise. Is it okay to take a portion of the text on the back of a DVD, book, or game box to use as a brief (2 to 4 sentences) synopsis? Would this be considered fair use? If not, can I get away with paraphrasing?

Asked on August 29, 2011 North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, it's not fair use--the fair use exceptions are for scholarship, education, parady, news reporting--not for a commercial venture intended to sell the items.

Of course, nothing stops you from asking the publisher (or other rights owner) for permission to use the text to advertise the material; if they permit, you can do this.

Otherwise, don't paraphrase--rewrite. For example, say you are are considering selling copies of game, where the back box text says, "In a post-apocayptic wasteland, hunt mutant zombie biker gangs--or join them in their hellacious damnation." Don't try to modify that text--just write a straight forward description; e.g. "Did you ever think that hunting mutant zombie bikers after the fall of civilization? Or ever want to be a mutant zombie biker? Then this is the game for you." The reason you don't want to play the paraphrasing game is that copyright also control the right to adapt or modify the original work, so if you clearly modified the original work, you could be violating  copyright.


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