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Celebrate Fair Use Week 2021

Fair Use Week logo

From February 22 to February 26, the Library will celebrate Fair Use Week. Fair use is an important legal doctrine that Georgetown faculty, students, and staff benefit from every day in their research, teaching, and more.

What is fair use? Fair use is your right under §107 of the Copyright Act to use limited portions of copyrighted material in your work without permission of the copyright owner and without paying any license fees.

What is covered by fair use? Fair use applies to any work that can be copyrighted, including text, images, video, and music. Some examples of fair uses are teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, commentary, news reporting, and parody.

How do you benefit from fair use?

  • You can quote from copyrighted works in your papers. Fair use allows you to use brief quotations from the copyrighted work of another author. Without fair use, that would be copyright infringement.
  • The library can provide e-reserves. Do you enjoy the convenience of reading a book chapter through e-reserves instead of coming into the library or buying the book? It is fair use that allows us to make e-reserves available to you. There are limits as to how much you can use under fair use, so only a small portion of a book will be made available through e-reserves.
  • You can print, copy, or scan limited portions of copyrighted materials. Do you print, copy, or scan book chapters or journal articles to support your research, teaching, or learning? You are not in violation of copyright when you make copies of small portions of copyrighted materials for research and scholarship.
  • You can search the full text of copyrighted books in Google Books. Google Books, a massive searchable database, was challenged as copyright infringement. In 2013, after years of litigation, a court ruled that Google Books was, in fact, fair use. When you view an item in Google Books, you won’t get the full work because fair use limits the amount of copyrighted text that can be displayed without infringement.
  • You can enjoy parodies. Do you ever watch comedy news programs that show clips from copyrighted shows and wonder why they don’t get sued for copyright infringement? The answer is fair use. Under the four factor balancing test, using limited portions of copyrighted works in parodies has been determined to be fair use in some circumstances.

Why do we have fair use? The purpose of copyright law is to advance knowledge. One way this is done is by giving authors an exclusive right to profit from their work during the copyright term, which is currently lifetime plus 70 years. Another way to advance knowledge is to allow the limited use of copyrighted materials in certain circumstances. For example, when scholars quote from previously published copyrighted works, they build on prior knowledge to create new knowledge.

What are the limits of fair use? Fair use determinations are made by evaluating what type of work you are using, how much of it you are using, and how you are using it. Fair use determinations require the weighing and balancing of the four fair use factors. Such determinations are made on a case-by-case basis and are subjective and fact specific. For more information, visit our Learn More About Fair Use page. For summaries of court cases that have determined what is, and is not, fair use, take a look at the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index. You can search the Index for cases in different categories, including education/scholarship/research, music, internet/digitization, and parody.

For more information, contact Meg Oakley, Director, Copyright & Scholarly Communication, at meg.oakley@georgetown.edu.