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Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2021 Reminds Us That Fair Use Is a Right

photo of Fair Use Week t-shirt

Last week more than 50 universities, associations, and organizations celebrated the eighth annual Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week, a celebration of these critical copyright doctrines that foster scholarship and creativity. Fair use in the US and fair dealing in Canada allow the public to lawfully use copyrighted materials without asking for permission. Described by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a built-in accommodation to the First Amendment, fair use provides a balance of rights between creators and users that is critical to the constitutional purpose of copyright: to promote the progress of science and useful arts. We celebrated each day of Fair Use Week with virtual activities, new resources, and insights and expertise to empower libraries, teachers, educators, and the public about the right of fair use. Three new projects launched during Fair Use Week, which we are excited to showcase here.

While the number of scholarly communications positions within the ARL community have increased in the past decade, positions like these that advise on issues like open access and copyright are less than two percent of the professional workforce within ARL. This Fair Use Week, Columbia University Libraries and LYRASIS launched the Virtual Copyright Education Center (VCEC) pilot project with a free class, Copyright 101. This class will deepen the bench of experts in libraries who will advise students and faculty on how copyright and fair use can enable their scholarship.

The UC Irvine Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology (IPAT) Clinic released a first-of-its-kind review of fair use jurisprudence from 2019 to 2021. Authors of the report remind us that “[j]ust about anyone who wants to do more than read, watch, or use a work relies on the doctrine of fair use in order to avoid liability for copyright infringement.” In reviewing the 72 court opinions, researchers noted that over half of the cases were about photographs, and that there were very few cases dealing with technology.

While fair use allowed creativity and scholarship to move online in 2020, even before COVID-19 educators and learners could rely on fair use for online education. Authors of the new Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Open Educational Resources Meredith Jacob and Will Cross write, “Relying on fair use as a tool to enable access seemed urgently necessary in that moment of crisis. But those needs are no less urgent and fair use is no less essential for students who face perennial challenges based on inequity and inaccessibility.” Learn more about how your project, conference, or institution can engage with the Code of Best Practices.

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