Today, information and media are at our fingertips with the click of a button. With ever-expanding access to information, the lines between the legal and illegal use of copyrighted materials seem to blur. A network of academic librarians joined forces and created Fair Use Week to address this pressing issue.
The goal of Fair Use Week is to increase public awareness about copyright laws and Fair Use in education. Several universities and colleges initiated this effort, including American University, Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and William Paterson University. Pia Hunter, head of Reserve and Media Services at the Daley library, is enthusiastic about the future of the program. She explained that participation in Fair Use week will continue to grow as news of the events travel. Hunter encourages students and staff to explore Fair Use issues year round, as they affect students, scholars, and researchers on a daily basis.
Fair Use is a provision of U.S. copyright law that grants the right to use copyrighted material under certain circumstances without the permission of the copyright owner (Harvard University). Fair Use can include criticism, commentary, teaching, research and news reporting on copyrighted material.
Proponents of Fair Use explain that the rigid application of copyright law can suppress the creativity and innovation the law originally set out to promote (Auferheride & Jaszi, 2011). Fair Use promotes creativity as it provides people with the freedom to use and add to original works.
To determine whether a certain use is protected, the Fair Use statute outlines four factors users must consider (Harvard University):
- The purpose and character of the use
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the potion used in relation to the work as a whole
- The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work
In education, the law often protects “transformative” uses. The Supreme Court explains that a work is transformative if it “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning or message,” (Harvard University). One common example is the use of a quotation from an original work in a critical essay in order to further a writer’s argument. Non-transformative uses may also be permitted under certain circumstances. As an example, the Supreme Court explained that instructors handing out multiple copies of works to a class in “appropriate circumstances” may be permitted as Fair Use (Harvard University).
Test your knowledge of copyright and Fair Use in this Discovery Channel quiz – some answers may surprise you! http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/fair-use-copyright-quiz.htm
Aufderheide, Patricia, and Peter Jaszi. Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011. Print.
Harvard University Office of the General Counsel http://ogc.harvard.edu/pages/copyright-and-fair-use