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Fair Use: 12 Myths and Realities

Last Updated on February 27, 2015, 5:17 pm ET

This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

Fair use is a critical right and the most important limitation on the rights of the copyright holder. It permits the use of copyrighted material without permission from the rightholder under certain circumstances and has been called the “safety valve” of U.S. copyright law. Fair use is a broad and flexible doctrine that is responsive to change and can accommodate new technologies and developments. The doctrine is relied upon by everyone, including both users of copyrighted content as well as rights holders.

For libraries and higher education, fair use is integral to achieving the mission of preservation; providing access to cultural, historical, local and scientific heritage; supporting and encouraging research, education, literacy and lifelong learning; and providing a venue for community engagement.

While fair use is of critical importance, there are many myths about what fair use is and
how it can be used (such as the misconceptions cited at the March 2014 Orphan Works Roundtable).  In honor of Fair Use Week, here are twelve myths and realities about fair use (PDF document).