Today is the first day of Fair Use Week 2020! Of course, fair use is the flexible user’s right to copy, share, and otherwise use in-copyright works without payment or permission, in the right circumstances. Folks often panic at that last part—what are “the right circumstances”? And since fair use is so important, and it really is a user’s right (not a privilege or a defense or whatever other gobbledygook some folks try to say to scare you out of using it…), it’s really important that ordinary people be able to make reasonable, confident decisions about what the right circumstances are.
That’s why, to kick off this celebration of the Most Important Part of US Copyright Law, IMO, I wanted to revisit one of the first things I did when I joined the UVA Library in 2016, which is still one of my favorite bits of Fair Use advocacy I’ve ever done: Fair Use in Seven Words.
Those seven words? “Use fairly. Not too much. Have reasons.” (Fans of Michael Pollan will notice a more-than-passing resemblance!) The video unpacks each of these concepts, showing how mastery of these simple steps will get you a very long way to mastering fair use itself.
I am proud of this little video because it shows that fair use is not a big, complicated, technical thing to fret about. In reality, thousands of people rely on fair use all day, every day, especially on college campuses like ours. Your common sense is quite up to the task of thinking about fair use, and with just a little practice, you’ll find that it’s actually a lot of fun.