Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi (2011)

My library recently ordered a copy of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi (2011), and since I am the copyright go-to-gal, I thought I ought to read it. It took me waaaaay longer to finish it than it should have since I made the questionable decision to read it during my "free time" at work (note to self: I don't really have any of that), but even though it took me a while, I'm very glad to have the knowledge from this book under my belt.

Copyright and fair use are often presented as impossibly complicated concepts that the ordinary person could never hope to understand without the help of a lawyer. In fact, most people are so unsure of when fair use applies and when it doesn't, that they don't do plenty of things that they could do because they are worried about misinterpreting the rules and getting sued. Aufderheide and Jaszi make the argument that fair use is a powerful right, and that if we don't start using it, it will slowly be legislated away from us by influential copyright-owning corporations.

The most powerful tool in their toolkit is the development of Best Practices in Fair Use for various communities (there are guides for documentary filmmakers, media literacy educators, and more -- including, most recently and excitingly, a guide for Academic and Research Libraries). These codes help ordinary users interpret the law as it applies to scenarios and best practices in their specific community. While it isn't a free pass to do whatever you want, these best practices documents have stood up in court and helped guide legal decisions that are fair to copyright owners and those who want to freely use copyrighted material in their work.

Aufderheide and Jaszi make the complicated world of fair use and copyright law downright entertaining and understandable, and include a whole host of "what if" scenarios that get the user used to thinking through the various elements of making a fair use decisions. I'd recommend this book to any librarian or archivist who deals with copyright issues, any professional who works with faculty or students in making fair use decisions, and all creators and academics who need to exercise fair use in their work and play.

Fair Use Forever!

1 comment:

Pat Aufderheide said...

Thank you so much for this great review! Wanted to share a recent email we got from another librarian, who's been using the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries:
".... In fact, just a few hours ago I had the opportunity in my job to use the Code—principle two, to be precise—and it was truly a liberating feeling to know that the choice a colleague and I made (a choice we normally would have at best delayed making and at worst, and most likely, never made at all) had been informed by the best practice of our colleagues across the country and the lawyers who helped shape and vet this document."