Fair Use Week at JMU Libraries

Posted on: February 25, 2019

Imagine there is a book that is 750 pages long, but your Professor only needs you to read 20 pages of it for class. Rather than asking you to buy the book, 730 pages of which you may never read, she uploads the 20 pages to Canvas. At this point, you have just benefited from the Doctrine of Fair Use!

This week, we celebrate the important Doctrine of Fair Use. Fair Use Week, sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries is February 25 through March 1, 2019.

The Doctrine of Fair Use allows us to use certain amounts of other people’s copyrighted work, for specific purposes, without asking their permission. In the university, it is a vital legal mechanism that enables teaching and scholarship.

The Doctrine of Fair Use is written into federal law, and you will find it in the US Code at 17 U.S. Code §?107. Fair Use depends upon four interdependent criteria (in other words, all four criteria have to be met for use of copyrighted work to be Fair Use). These criteria are:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

A key concept in “purpose and character of the use” is whether your use is “transformative” – has the user created something new in their use of the work? Have you ever completed a book review assignment in which you quoted from the book in order to critique it? If so, you have again benefited from the Doctrine of Fair Use.

Fair Use is enormously important, but it is also quite complex. If you are interested in the subject of Fair Use, a good introduction to the topic can be found in Chapter 9 of this eBook at JMU Libraries: Strong, W. S. (2014). The copyright book?: a practical guide. Cambridge, Massachusetts?: MIT Press.

However, if you are intending to use someone else’s copyrighted material and have questions about whether your Fair Use is, indeed, fair, then the JMU Libraries Copyright Guide may be useful. Additionally, you may get in touch with the Copyright Coordinator, Howard S. Carrier, who is always more than happy to offer guidance in this area. 

By: Howard S. Carrier, Copyright Coordinator and Social Sciences Librarian

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