Fair Use in Your Library
Since 2006, Lesley Ellen Harris has been writing a column, Info Rights, for Information Outlook, the publication of the Special Libraries Association (SLA). Each Information Outlook column deals with an aspect of copyright or licensing such as fair use, international copyright law, and license agreement terms and conditions. Many of these SLA columns deal with managing copyright issues and lowering risks when using copyright-protected materials.
Are You Responsible for Fair Use Applications?
Almost every librarian or information professional will be responsible for applying fair use in their library or organization at some point. There is so much to learn about fair use—and, unfortunately, so much misinformation about fair use—that it can be overwhelming to deal with this critical U.S. copyright principle.
So, where do you begin when it comes to applying fair use in your library? There are many facts to know about fair use, facts that will help you decide whether and when to apply fair use to your specific circumstances.
Despite what some librarians and information professionals think, you need not be an expert in copyright law to understand fair use and to apply fair use in your your use of copyright-protected content. What makes some people uneasy about applying fair use is that it is not “black and white” or clear-cut; rather, it requires an analysis of each particular set of circumstances. in addition, the application of fair use is never a certain thing unless a judge in a court of law makes a fair use determination.
Applying Fair Use is a Judgment Call
This means that everyone who wants to apply fair use needs to get comfortable with the basics of fair use and with making judgment calls as to whether fair use applies to a particular use of copyright-protected materials. At the same time, it means understanding copyright risk management and being able to minimize your risks of unauthorized uses of copyright materials.
Being comfortable with fair use and understanding how it works are essential before you apply it to your particular circumstances. So, before you determine whether you can reproduce a paragraph from an article or a chapter from a book, you should understand certain things about fair use.
Read the full article: Applying Fair Use in Your Library. This article originally appeared in Lesley Ellen Harris’ Info Rights column in Information Outlook, the publication of the Special Libraries Association (SLA).
For more information on fair use and U.S. copyright law,