Useful for Understanding Fair Use

I found this very useful in framing my thoughts around Fair Use this week:

“5 Essential Facts About Fair Use”

(originally blogged at by )  excerpted here:

ONE – Fair use is only recently part of the actual U.S. Copyright Act. Fair use is a doctrine created by courts in the nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act that fair use became codified and set out in the U.S. Copyright Act.

TWO – Many who apply fair use complain that it is ambiguous and should be more specific to fact situations. Fair use is intentionally open and flexible and its language allows you to apply the doctrine to your own specific fact situations.

THREE – Fair use may be applied by individuals or corporations, by commercial and noncommercial entities and in for profit and nonprofit situations. It all depends on the facts of your situation and how your facts fit within the four fair use factors set out in the U.S. Copyright Act.

FOUR – Fair use is never a certain thing unless a judge in a court of law makes that determination. This means that getting comfortable with fair use is important as is being able to make a judgment call as to whether fair use applies to your use of copyright-protected content. At the same time, it means understanding copyright risk management and being able to minimize your risks of unauthorized uses of copyright materials.

FIVE – The U.S. Copyright Office hosts a Fair Use Index. The goal of the Index “is to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions.” You can search the Index by category (e.g., literary, artistic, musical work) and by your type of use (e.g., education/scholarship/research, parody, internet/digitization.) The Index tracks court decisions at various court levels and is not intended to be a comprehensive archive of all fair use decisions ever decided. It is designed for lawyers and non lawyers and is user friendly. The Index sets out the name of the case, court, jurisdiction and year of the decision as well as whether fair use was found by the court. You can click on the case name/citation for a summary of the case that includes the key facts, issue, outcome and more information about the decision. It is a very helpful database on fair use.

I’ve known about the Fair Use Index but I wonder (still) about its usefulness for college instructors (or even college copyright officers).

Communicating to faculty that I can’t answer questions that begin with “Can I use…” with any certainty has been a challenging part of the job for me.

Any thoughts on this?

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