Fair Use

Legislation in support of fair use has been considered by the US Congress for many years. These bills sought to ensure the vitality of fair use in the digital environment. Each day teachers teach, students learn, researchers advance knowledge, and consumers access copyrighted information due to exemptions in the Copyright Act such as fair use. Fair use permits the use of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances. For libraries, educational institutions, and the public, the Fair Use Doctrine is the most important limitation on the rights of the copyright owner—the "safety valve" of US copyright law.


Fair Use Legislation

Legislation in support of fair use has been considered by the US Congress for many years. These bills sought to ensure the vitality of fair use in the digital environment. 


Code of Best Practices 

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) presents the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, a clear and easy-to-use statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use developed by and for librarians who support academic inquiry and higher education. The Code was developed in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University. 

In dozens of interviews with veteran research and academic librarians, the researchers learned how copyright law comes into play as interviewees performed core library functions. Then, in a series of small group discussions held with library policymakers around the country, the research team developed a consensus approach to applying fair use.

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Orphan Works

In 2005, the US Copyright Office received hundreds of comments from a wide range of interests on issues concerning "orphan works." The office defines these works as those whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. In its January 21, 2005, Notice of Inquiry (NOI), the office stated that "the public interest may be harmed when works cannot be made available to the public due to the uncertainty over its copyright ownership and status, even when there is no longer any living person or legal entity claiming ownership of the copyright or the owner no longer has any objection to such use." The NOI also acknowledged "the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public."

ARL, as a member of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), submitted comments on the Copyright Office NOI, March 25, 2005 [PDF]. The LCA wrote in support of the proposal advanced by the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic and continues to work on this issue.

Authors Guild v. HathiTrust


Google Book Search Library Project

On October 28, 2008, after several years of legal wrangling, Google, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and the Authors Guild reached a settlement agreement concerning Google’s scanning of copyrighted works. The scanning of these works has been done in cooperation with research libraries throughout the United States. The settlement agreement requires court approval by the presiding judge in the U.S. District Court in New York because the case was brought as a class action suit on behalf of selected copyright owners.

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