q: did you guys come up with the idea of redactive poetry?
a: not entirely. ”erasure“ is a form of poetry where the poet erases portions of newsprint or blots out text from a novel, using the remaining words to create a different narrative than the original journalist or author’s intention. wave poetry has a flash app simulating that style; an etsy seller called redactedpoetry sells his redacted poetry; a man named austin kleon is coming out with a book of “blackout poetry;” jen bervin’s erasure “the desert” appeared in an issue of esopus. there also exists a poetry journal called “redactions,” but this seems to be unrelated.
q: so why even start this project?
a: nobody we’ve seen has brought the idea of erasure poetry to the web quite like this, where the internet serves as the source data. we thought it was a fascinating, innovative idea, so we built the tools to create and share those redactive poems.
q: is this site legal?
a: …probably. on the one hand, by submitting poems made from the text of other websites, you are likely infringing on the copyright of the site owners and making an unauthorized derivative work. that said, there’s a strong case that you are actually creating new poetry from those words, which would then fall under the category of “fair use.”
q: oh yeah? what is this “fair use”?
a: fair use is an affirmative defense defined in section 107 of the u.s. copyright law. it describes the types of actions that are not considered infringement of copyright, even though they might appear to be. most importantly, fair use is not a “bright line test,” meaning judges have to determine on a case-by-case basis using their best judgement. however, they’re supposed to consider a four factor test:
- the purpose and character of the use
- the nature of the copyrighted work
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole
- the effect of the use upon the potential market or value of the copyrighted work
we believe the redactive poetry project to be a fair use because it is non-commercial, sufficiently transformative, uses only small parts of websites, and is unlikely to have any effect on a potential market for those websites.