Can I use the data of Friends TV show transcript in my thesis for analysis and publish my paper/findings. Does the usage of TV show transcript data for analysis and construction of new script based on the original script come under fair use of exception in US copyright law ? Can you please advise me on how to proceed further.

  • Are you putting the script itself in the thesis? – ff524 Jun 30 '16 at 19:15
  • No. I will be using the transcript data to produce new show script through machine learning computer program, That is my thesis. – Rajesh Mappu Jun 30 '16 at 19:20
  • Do note that the right to make derivative works is covered by U.S. copyright. That's why Star Trek fans who've made their own films are at odds with CBS and Paramount. – Bob Brown Jul 8 '16 at 18:08
  • Thank you. If I do buy the TV script made available on ebay, does it count that I can use them in producing a Thesis ? – Rajesh Mappu Jul 8 '16 at 18:47
  • IANAL, but you probably won't be taken to court over this. If you are, your school will probably defend you. – Ric Jul 8 '16 at 19:43

The description of your activities that you have provided, using a 'script' from a popular TV show for research purposes in a machine learning algorithm is allowed within the 'fair use' description of copyright. It is my understanding that the following descriptions place the usage described within 'fair use':

Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.

Since you are using the script to train a machine algorithm, and not the video, audio, nor are you reproducing it for your audience, it seems to be well within fair use.

Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Using a script to train a machine algorithm, it seems, would have virtually no effect on the 'potential market or value of copyrighted work'.

Highlighted portions from "More Information on Fair Use by Copyright.gov"

Another possible solution you could consider is to train your machine learning algorithm on a different humorous show whose copyright has expired and is therefore in the Public Domain. Here is a list of humorous televeision shows whose copyright has expired, including "The Beverly Hillbillies".

  • I went through the given link and I cannot make a conclusion. In 1st point, It is said we can use copyrighted work as it is for non-profit educational work. But in 2nd point, I can see that "Thus, using a more creative or imaginative work (such as a novel, movie, or song) is less likely to support a claim of a fair use than using a factual work (such as a technical article or news item)." How can I make a conclusion ? – Rajesh Mappu Jul 8 '16 at 17:48
  • @RajeshThevar I edited original post and provided additional (helpful) info. – J. Roibal - BlockchainEng Jul 8 '16 at 18:00

I wouldn't. Fair use is a defense in court to a claim of copyright infringement brought against you by the copyright holder. That means that you have to get sued, hire a lawyer who fails to convince them to drop the suit due to your use under the fair use principles, and then take your defense to trial before a judge or jury. This, while unlikely to happen, is likely to cost you more than $10k and maybe as much as $100k if you get sued. It's not worth it.

I'm not a lawyer, nor am I your lawyer, but I'd find a play or radio play that is now in the public domain and use that instead. The idioms and colloquialisms are likely to be dated and may mess up your algorithm, but that's better than getting sued and being out the money.

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