Ever since moving to Sitka, Alaska I have been very active in a local organization called the Alaska Native Sisterhood (camp 4). Last year, I was in charge of organizing the Elizabeth Peratrovich Day and I included weeklong events from creating this informational video, to working with the National Park to show a film, to organizing the city parade. However, since starting in education and learning more about native culture I question myself...

Is the following video fair(ish) use?

Half of the background music I used was approved by the singer/musician herself Mrs. Robbie Littlefield, but the other half I took from a video I filmed at a local "Stand for Standing Rock" event where the Naa Kahidi dancers performed.

This song still technically belongs to a clan and I did't know who I needed to ask to be able to use it. Which brings me to a modern day local problem the Tlingit community is facing. The loss of language. Lullabies and songs can be an effective way to work on this problem. Yet, clans own the songs and the schools are mainly funded/regulated by the state.

Who is protected by copyright laws?

Modern copyright law remains ill-equipped to provide cross cultural protection when non-Western music is thrust into the commercial music industry (p. 58).

According to Western copyright laws, the use of the music in this video is fair use since it is representing a non profit and is meant to teach, checking off the purpose/character and nature of the work. I didn't use it for the whole video and the portion I used was minimal to the song duration itself, checking off number 3 of Cornell Law site. The effect of the video is not for profit, checking off number 4. But the real question is...

Would Native American law classify it as fair use?

One thought on “Fair(ish) Use”

  1. I just commented on James’s site about what he called “the fifth element” of fair use…which is, basically, about whether something feels *ethically* right, not whether it is legal. Yes, I think your justification for Fair Use is right and this is legally fair. But ethically, as determined by the participants and the culture, it’s more complicated.

    I don’t know the answer to that…if I were you and wanted to get a better answer I would probably start with Tlingit elders. I’m reminded of some projects I worked on involving digitizing and sharing oral histories and potlatch songs and the like from various villages, elders, etc. The copyright issues were simple to figure out…but the ethics, the part where I ask myself “do I feel good about this” were much more complicated and had nothing to do with the presence of signed waivers and the like. Working out what we could do in that sense took a lot of discussions with elders, tribal representatives, corporations, etc.

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