Fair Use Week 2021: Promoting Ideas, Creativity, Learning and Culture

Fair Use Week 2021: Promoting Ideas, Creativity, Learning and Culture

By Kristy Padron, MLIS

Scholarly Communication Services Coordinator


Fair Use Week is February 22 – 26, 2021.  The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) designated this time to highlight and promote what fair use allows us to do with copyrighted works.

What is copyright?

A discussion of fair use begs a mention of copyright.  Copyright is a set of laws that give creators (or copyright holders) the rights to distribute, sell, copy, perform, and otherwise control their work.  A key part of this definition is work, meaning any idea that is put into a tangible form such as a book, recording, drawing, image, or music.  Copyright can belong to an individual, be shared among creators, or get transferred to others, and its protections are given for a limited time.  Why did this become law?  It’s to encourage creators to create, and also benefit from their work.

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Where does fair use step in?

Fair use is a limitation in U.S. copyright law (USC Title 17 § 107) that allows others to use copyrighted works on limited bases.  The law itself is only 175 words long, but provides some leeway for creative or educational purposes.

Although we do these things almost everyday, did you know they are examples of fair use?

  • Paraphrasing and citing the works of others for an assignment or published work.
  • Web browsers:  they mine content on servers and web pages, and then transform the information into search results.
  • Downloading:  saving a PDF of an article to your personal library or PC for your individual use.
  • Showing your personal copy of a DVD or multimedia in a face-to-face class.

How does fair use help me?

Fair use allows us to reuse the work of others for teaching, learning, and creative activities.  Students learn facts, concepts, and theories contributed by others.  Scholars and academics build on previous works to create new knowledge and understandings.  Creative types get inspired to create new works based on the visual, musical, or performing arts made by others.  Ultimately, fair use allows us to contribute to teaching, knowledge, and the progression of culture.

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Last modified at 02/18/2021 - 08:20 AM