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Who Needs Fair Use? All of Us!

by Stephanie Beene on 2017-02-21T11:28:00-07:00 in Reference Tools, Information Science | 0 Comments

Do you know what week it is? If you guessed Fair Use Week, you'd be right!

If you didn't, stay tuned and read on! We've got some cool resources for you. 

Because of the importance of fair use to scholarship and teaching, the UNM University Libraries is joining organizations such as the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Authors Alliance, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation—to celebrate Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week, February 20-26.

How many of the following activities occurred at UNM and many other universities last week?

  • Undergraduates watched and discussed a performance in class

  • You Googled an image or an article

  • You watched something on YouTube

  • You forwarded an email with an embedded link from the web

  • A student filmmaker used soccer game footage in a documentary on head injuries in sports

  • A professor shared an article

  • A librarian scanned letters from a famous author’s papers for an online exhibit

All of these examples involve using copyrighted material to spark discussion, share ideas, and—in some cases—create new work. And all involve the Fair Use exemption within U.S. Copyright Law.

Fair use allows copyrighted material to be used by others without seeking permission from the copyright holder. To quote:

"...the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

What if you want to use a copyrighted work, but don’t know if your use is fair or infringing?

The law lays out four factors to consider:

  • the purpose and character of the use

  • the nature of the copyrighted work

  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken

  • the effect of the use on the potential market

    fair use.jpg









But interpretation can be tricky and many disputes are resolved in court, with individual judges weighing each of the four factors. A reliance on one of the four (its use in an educational setting or for educational purposes, for instance), is not enough.

What fair use questions do you Lobos have? To help out, the University Libraries has created an email account for fielding tricky questions. We can’t offer legal advice, but we are happy to help you think through the four factors and how they might apply to your project. We are also in discussion with others on campus about creating more guidance in working with this area of the law.

Do you have ideas about what you’d like to see? Let us know!

In the meantime, we’d like to recognize a few of the many cool resources created as part of the Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week celebration:

The official Fair Use Week's List of Resources, constantly being updated. 

Do you ever just want a chart, spinner, or tool to give you an idea of what to to? The law can be confusing! Check out Stanford University's super helpful consolidated guide to the latest-and-greatest to help YOU decide whether something is copyrighted, fair use, public domain, etc.

Speaking of charts, here's one of our favorites, endorsed by many professional associations:


What do Star Wars, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, Jay-Z's 99 Problems, and Andy Warhol have in common? They're all Fair Use cases! Check out UCLA Libraries' fun postcard to see if you can guess how each of them used Fair Use and Copyright!

Feelig saavy? Like online quizzes? Check out the 10-min Fair Use Quiz created by MIT Libraries and see how you do!

- Written by Stephanie Beene, Fine Arts Librarian for Art, Architecture and Planning, and Cindy Pierard, Director of Access Services

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