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Highlights from Fair Use Week 2015

Last Updated on March 10, 2015, 8:10 pm ET

From February 23-28, 64 organizations and institutions participated in Fair Use Week 2015, an annual celebration of the important (and flexible) doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. Participants included universities, libraries, library associations and a number of organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, New Media Rights, Public Knowledge and the R Street Institute. These participants celebrated the essential limitations and exceptions to copyright that fair use and fair dealing provide, allowing the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances. While fair use and fair dealing are employed on a daily basis, Fair Use Week provided a time to promote and discuss the opportunities presented, celebrate successful stories and explain these doctrines.

Each day, new blog posts and resource materials were produced. Daily recaps are available for each day of Fair Use Week and additional resources are available on the website. Over the course of the week, more than 90 blog posts, 13 videos, 2 podcasts, a comic book, an infographic, and several other great resources were released. Below are some highlights from the week:


ARL released the Fair Use Fundamentals Infographic, explaining what fair use is, why it is important, and who uses fair use. It also provides several examples of cases where courts have upheld fair use. ARL also produced Fair Use: 12 Myths and Realities.

Jonathan Band highlighted just how often fair use is employed on a daily basis through a sample day in the life of a legislative assistant.

Kyle Courtney of Harvard University released a comic book entitled, “The Origin of U.S. Fair Use.”

Public Knowledge hosted a Reddit AMA with cartoonist Nina Paley discussing how art is made and the role of fair use.


Professor William Fisher (Harvard Law School) released two lectures from his Copyright X course: Lecture 9.1, Fair Use: The History of Fair Use and Lecture 9.2, Fair Use: Fair Use Today. These are excellent lectures explaining the doctrine.

Several videos were produced during the week. Fred von Lohmann explains how fair use enables technologies used every day. The Media Education Lab posted a fair use music video.

The Association of College and Research Libraries hosted a webinar featuring Kevin Smith of Duke University, “Does Fair Use Really Work?” The archive of the webinar is available here.

American University Washington College of Law’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property hosted an event, “Presenting the Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Collections Containing Orphan Works.” The archived video of the event is available here.

Duke University, hit by inclement weather, delayed its event Fair Use of Art & Beyond, but the video of the event (including slides) is now available here.

In Canada, Bobby Glushko (University of Toronto) produced several videos, including one on the “Copyright Pentalogy,” providing an overview on five Canadian Supreme Court cases that clarified copyright law. Christine Jewell (University of Waterloo) has a great explanation on what fair dealing is.


Two podcasts were released during the week. TechDirt devoted an entire episode to the topic, “Fair Use Protects Culture from Copyright, Not the Other Way Around.” Radio Free Culture released a special episode, “Wishing You A Happy Fair Use Week with Ellen Duranceau.”

Blog Posts:

The Authors Alliance posted three times during the week, including Pamela Samuelson’s “Why is Fair Use Good For Authors?” Samuelson explains the many ways that authors rely on fair use, noting, “Authors and artists are likely to make and benefit from fair uses in every phase of the creative process and long thereafter.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation stated, “Congress’s Copyright Review Should Strengthen Fair Use—Or At Least Do No Harm,” explaining that Congress could 1) clarify that statutory damages do not apply where a user relies on a fair use defense in good faith, and 2) fix Section 1201 of the Copyright Act to ensure that technological protection measures, or digital locks, cannot be used to take away fair use.

Creative Commons celebrated Fair Use Week with an explanation of how the creative commons license interacts with fair use.

The Organization for Transformative Works highlighted 10 Fair Use Misconceptions.

Mike Masnick of TechDirt issued this “Reminder: Fair Use is a Right—And Not ‘An Exception’ or ‘A Defense.’

Harvard released blog posts each day of the week with expert guest bloggers Kenny Crews (consultant), Kevin Smith (Duke University), Laura Quilter (UMass Amherst), Niva Elkin-Koren (University of Haifa, Israel), and Dr. Matthew Rimmer (ANU College, Australia).

Georgia State University has a short piece explaining the four fair use factors. The Ohio State University explains Fair Use in Digital Storytelling. University of Texas Austin explains Fair Use and the Jazz Appreciation MOOCs.

Numerous universities across Canada joined in by celebrating Fair Dealing Week 2015. The University of Toronto coordinated these efforts and collected blog posts for the week here.

The week wasn’t exclusively celebrated in the U.S. or Canada, either! The University of Haifa in Israel also took part, with a series of blog posts (NB: most of these posts are in Hebrew).