What is Fair Use

The MidContinental blog referred to a good post on the Myths About Fair Use, on Inside Higher Ed. Patricia Aufderheide specifically mentions academics and their misconceptions of fair use, as a medical librarian I see some of the same misconceptions with the doctors we serve as well.

Patricia breaks it into 7 myths (or as I would say 7 deadly sins) of fair use. She discusses using resources for class, whether the use is transformative, non commercial/commercial issues, and more.

It is a tricky topic and even reading through Patricia’s article can be a little confusing.  Personally, I wish she used more examples to further explain her points because when she writes;

“In practice, since 1990 judges have boiled those concerns down to two: Is your use transformative? (In other words, did you add real value and did you employ this material for a different purpose from the one that the owner created it for?) Is the amount appropriate to satisfy that new purpose? If the answer to these questions is yes, the market effect concern takes a back seat. And judges look closely at community practice. That’s why codes of best practices in fair use have been so valuable in establish what is acceptable and normal to do in any professional community.”

I have to re-read it a few times and then I am not quite sure what exactly she means and how it applies to me or the doctors I serve.  Fair use can be tricky and confusing to people, and often when it is discussed or people write about it they tend to slip into their legal voices.  Hey doctors do it too, they often speak in medical terms to a patient and sometimes don’t realize the very intelligent patient has no earthly clue as to what they are saying.  If you want academics, doctors, librarians, and everyone else to understand fair use, then take a page out of health literacy advocates book.   Highly educated and literate academics and doctors have difficulty understanding the legal nuances of fair use.  Something like a “fair use for dummies” article or site would be the most helpful in educating academics and others to basic ins and outs of fair use.

I did a quick search online and found The Copyright Site had a very basic flow chart on fair use.  The Copyright Site originated from a class at the University of Alabama where Dr. Vivian Wright saw a need for copyright information for educators.

You’ve heard the phrase “a picture tells a thousand words,” well if you are looking for something like that for the subject of fair use you might be interested in reading the comic book, Bound by Law created by Duke Law School Center for the Study of the Public Domain.  It appears to be centered more around artists and film making but it really applies to anybody wanting to use images or icons for their work.

If you are in for a little fairy tale fun with Disney films to learn about copyright and fair use, you might want to check out Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University video that reviews copyright principles through the words of the Disney characters.  The video can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJn_jC4FNDo It is cute but a little disjointed at times.

Copyright and fair use are tricky little devils, perhaps you have good sites that plainly explain fair use, if so please share them.


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