In honor of Fair Use Week, let’s begin by unmasking the false premise underlying much of the celebration of fair use — that is, that the basic objective of the copyright system is to achieve a balance between the “public interest” on the one hand, and the interest of private copyright owners on the other. In this formulation, the “public” interest is exclusively defined as the ability to get copyrighted materials as cheaply as possible, with free obviously being the best (since it is the cheapest) option.
Many of the organizations celebrating fair use would have you believe that copyright protection and the public interest are diametrically opposed. This is merely a rhetorical device, and is a complete fallacy. Groups like EFF, Public Knowledge and re:Create employ emotive rhetoric in an attempt to demonize copyright, and to suggest that “copyright” protection is somehow a “special interest.”