Librarians at schools, colleges and universities play an important role helping their users understand and apply copyright law. This makes sense because educational institutions are sites for learning, and the advancement of learning is the purpose of the copyright. Congress recognized the unique status of non-profit educational institutions, libraries and archives under copyright law and developed allowances – copyright exceptions – especially for them. But some of these exceptions are notoriously complicated and open to varying interpretations. Even keeping track of this legal patch work can be difficult.
In response, a group of media librarians from the ALA Video Round Table approached me with a project aiming to make sense of these exceptions and come to some consensus on how media librarians should interpret the law. Piggy backing off of the “best practices” work of the American University’s Washington School of Law and the Center for Social Media, we wanted to find out what media librarians were actually doing with the exceptions. Instead of asking media librarians how they interpret the copyright law and statutory exceptions, we asked media librarians to explain what kinds of uses of media they believed were reasonable uses necessary to fulfill the mission of their educational institution. We asked, “Do you think these uses are fair?” Then we asked “Are you actually doing these things?”
We discovered areas of commonality among the responses that we identified as community practices, lawful fair use activities. Of course, there are caveats and issues to be considered which we also detail in the document. We hope it is helpful to librarians—by exercising fair use in these ways, librarian demonstrate their understanding of fair use and help shape the meaning of the law. Our hope is that these fair use community practices better able media librarians to meet the mission of their educational institutions – advancement of knowledge, learning and new discovery. We welcome feedback.
Video Fair Use Work Group
- Judy Thomas, Chair (University of Virginia)
- Claire Stewart (Northwestern University)
- Steve Brantley (University of Illinois at Chicago)
- Carlton Jackson (University of Maryland)
- Nell Chenault (Virginia Commonwealth University)
- Justin Wadland (University of Washington)