This is Water.

This has been going around the interwebs lately, and perhaps you have already seen it. If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’ve posted about David Foster Wallace many, many times. I’ve been an avid fan since stumbling across Oblivion in 2005.

I like the video, overall. It’s a cool way to distill Wallace’s already-distilled views.

Update 5/22/13: The video was apparently taken down upon (what seems likely to be) a copyright takedown request from the Wallace estate. If you want to avoid some boring lawyer talk, skip the rest of this post.

The obvious issue here is whether the usage of the recording of Wallace’s speech and the very liberal quoting constitute “fair use” under 17 U.S.C. § 107. That statutory section lists the four standard factors of fair use that, you may have imagined, have been extensively interpreted by courts. Without much research into the matter, it’s difficult to say, of course, whether the purveyors of that video would have a good reason to fight claim if it was ever brought. My gut instinct is that this probably strays too far beyond the case law spectrum of “fair use” I’m familiar with.

Nevertheless, it’s sad, at least, that they did insist for the video to be taken down, since it was a good way, I thought, of dispersing Wallace’s core message; but I certainly understand why they—and if I was in their shoes, perhaps I would have—made the request. If I had been making the video, I would have ensured (playing it safely) that I had permission from the estate to use the audio and to quote from the speech.