Friday, August 19, 2011

Fair Use Fridays: ALA - Fair Use Guidelines "Of Little Practical Help"

From Daniel Lee, Undergraduate Services Librarian at the University of Arizona (full text on American Library Association website here)

Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 defines fair use. It is a vague definition, intentionally so, presenting broad principles with no reference to numerical limits on the portion of a work used, or the length of time a work can be used. This vagueness provides tremendous flexibility, but also leads to much uncertainty. Applying the statute to a particular proposed project can result in multiple, quite reasonable interpretations. In an effort to combat this uncertainty and make fair use more predictable, representatives of both copyright holders and consumers have often met to develop guidelines that provide the sort of specificity that many find desirable.

The most well known of these guidelines are the CONTU Guidelines on Photocopying Under Interlibrary Loan Arrangements, adopted in 1978, and the Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-for-profit Educational Institutions with Respect to Books and Periodicals (often referred to as the "Classroom Guidelines"), adopted in 1976. More recently, attempts were made to reach similar agreements for educational multimedia, electronic reserve, and distance learning. For the most part, agreement could not be reached as copyright owners believed the proposed guidelines to be overly permissive, and library and educational representatives found the proposals to be too restrictive.

The failure of the recent negotiations and almost 25 years of experience with the earlier guidelines have led many to conclude that fair use guidelines, by their very nature, fail to capture the principles embodied in fair use and are of little practical help.

A Powerpoint on fair use for librarians here

CONTU Guidelines here.
 Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook 2010 by Raymond J. Dowd from West here  

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