The SCOOP: Fair Use Week

Submitted by Christine Fruin, ATLA Scholarly Communication/Open Access Publishing Manager

The SCOOP, Scholarly COmmunication and Open Publishing, is a monthly column published to inform ATLA members of recent developments, new resources, or interesting stories from the realm of scholarly communication and open access publishing.

History of Fair Use Week

This year marks the fifth anniversary of Fair Use Week. Fair Use Week began in February 2014 at the suggestion of the Association of Research Libraries’ (ARL) “Fair Use Allies” group. Each year, libraries across the United States and Canada plan activities to educate and celebrate the importance of the copyright limitations of fair use and fair dealing. Fair Use Week 2018 occurs February 26 to March 2. During this time, libraries are encouraged to engage members of their communities through any of the following activities:

  • Writing a blog post on fair use/fair dealing
  • Hosting a live panel of researchers, teachers, artists or others who regularly utilize fair use in their work
  • Presenting a webinar on fair use and how to understand and apply the four factors
  • Create a video about fair use/fair dealing
  • Publicizing fair use on social media using the hashtag #fairuseweek
  • Creating resources or sharing existing resources, such as the Fair Use Week Infographic (See

What is Fair Use

Fair use is a broad statutory exception to the exclusive grant of rights to copyright holders that allows for reproduction, display, performance and other uses of copyrighted works without permission of the copyright holder. To invoke fair use, a user of copyrighted works must consider four factors, and the balance of this consideration must tip in favor of the proposed use. The four factors of fair use are: why is the work being used, what is the nature of the work being used, how much of the work is being used, and what effect does the use of the work have on the market for that work. Consideration of all the fair use factors is required; however, all four factors do not have to weigh equally in favor of the proposed use.

Fair use is a fact-driven inquiry, and it is intended to be applied on a case-by-case basis, although common practices among communities of users have been documented as generally considered to be fair use provided certain boundaries are observed and specified conditions are employed. These documents, known as Codes of Best Practice, have been created for journalists, documentary filmmakers, visual artists, as well as academic libraries.

Fair Use for Libraries

Libraries are commonly viewed as the go-to resource on college and university campuses for questions related to copyright. They frequently advise faculty on incorporating copyrighted resources into their classes or on their own rights as authors as well as educate students on their rights as creators. However, copyright also has important application to the work that libraries do, whether through utilization of the grant of rights in Section 108, which we addressed in the SCOOP last month, or by reliance upon fair use, for example, to provide course materials online or to digitize special collections.

Fair use for libraries has gained importance in recent years thanks, in part, to the number of lawsuits filed against libraries and library organizations. The outcomes of those cases, however, have largely been in favor of the work that libraries do and exemplify the importance of the right of fair use for all persons and organizations.

To help our member libraries to understand this important right and its application to the work they do, ATLA will offer a webinar entitled “Fair Use for Libraries” on March 7.  During this webinar, I will update participants on the current legal interpretation of the fair use statute and how to apply it to the work that they do. For more information and to register, please visit I encourage you to bring your questions about fair use to the presentation and share with others how you have successfully employed fair use at your library.

Recommended Further Reading:

An excellent read on fair use from two of the primary facilitators of the various Codes of Best Practices: Reclaiming Fair Use by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi.

A guide to copyright for libraries, archives, and museums, with an informative section on fair use: Copyright and Cultural Institutions by Peter Hirtle, Emily Hudson and Andrew Kenyon.

A fun comic that details how the concept of fair use became part of U.S. law: The Origin of Fair Use by Kyle Courtney, Jackie Roche and Sarah Searle.

Christine Fruin is the ATLA Scholarly Communication/Open Access Publishing Manager. As an attorney and a librarian, she has worked for over a decade promoting access to and use of diverse collections through utilization of fair use, open access, and responsible licensing.

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