Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Tag Archives: Fair Use

Celebrate Fair Use Week with the University Libraries at VT – Feb. 22-26!

The University Libraries are excited to announce our first annual Fair Use Week celebration! Starting on Monday February 22nd, Fair Use Week is an event to “celebrate the important doctrines of fair use in the United States and fair dealing in Canada and other jurisdictions” and promoted by the Association for Research Libraries.

Fair Use Week logo

In addition to the Fair Use Week events, the University Libraries will have an interactive exhibit on the 2nd floor of Newman Library (near the Alumni Mall entrance) from Monday February 22 through Friday March 4. Please join us for one or more of the events below!

  • Monday, 2/22, 4:30-5pm, Newman Library, 2nd floor
    Fair Use Week Exhibit Opening – enjoy some light refreshments while exploring the interactive exhibit.
  • Tuesday, 2/23, 9:30-10:45am, online*
    Workshop: “Is it a Fair Use? A Hands-On Discussion”
    NLI Credit available.
    *Contact Ginny Pannabecker at for online meeting information.
  • Tuesday, 2/23, 11:00am-Noon, Newman Library, Multipurpose Room (first floor)
    Workshop: “The New International Movement to Standardize Rights Statements – And How We’re Participating”
    NLI Credit available.
  • Wednesday, 2/24, 10:00-11:00amNewman Library, Multipurpose Room (first floor)
    Discussion: “Behind the Scenes of the Fair Use Week Exhibit: How We Made Our Copyright Decisions”
    NLI Credit available.
  • Wednesday, 2/24, 1:25-2:15pmNewman Library, Multipurpose Room (first floor)
    Workshop: “Is it a Fair Use? A Hands-On Discussion”
    NLI Credit available.

So, what is “fair use” and why do we think it’s important enough to celebrate it for a whole week? 

Fair Use is a four-factor exemption of U.S. Copyright Law 17 U.S. Code § 107 which allows anyone to:

  • Copy
  • Re-distribute
  • Perform
  • Electronically transmit
  • Publicly display
  • Create new versions of others’ copyrighted works

…without permission.*

*When the potential use is deemed to be “fair” rather than “infringing.”  Only a court can decide what is truly “fair use.” However, U.S. law allows anyone to conduct a well-informed fair use analysis in good faith to determine if their proposed use of copyrighted material is more fair or more infringing.

For an example of Fair Use in action and an entertaining video explaining some foundational U.S. Copyright and Fair Use information, take a look at Professor Eric Faden’s “A Fair(y) Use Tale.” The version embedded below was re-uploaded to YouTube (under compliance with the video’s CC BY NC-SA 3.0 license) in order to add transcribed subtitles and captioning.

Thank you for taking a moment to find out more about Fair Use, and we hope to see you at one or more of the University Libraries events!

Thanks to the University Libraries’ 2016 Fair Use Week team: Virginia (Ginny) Pannabecker, Anita Walz, Scott Fralin, Robert Sebek, and Keith Gilbertson!

Intellectual Property Strategy by John Palfrey

Intellectual Property Strategy (Update May 14, 2018: This book is now available in an open access edition with additional material.)

John Palfrey’s Intellectual Property Strategy (MIT Press, 2012) is the first book I’ve read on the subject. Having read one of his previous books, Born Digital, and because it is in the same book series as Peter Suber’s Open Access, I suspected openness would be a theme, and I wasn’t disappointed. This review is mostly about that theme, rather than all aspects of the book, so keep that in mind. Palfrey is a well qualified writer on this subject, having taught law at Harvard, practiced intellectual property (IP) law, cofounded several tech startups, and is a venture executive. The book is aimed at CEOs and senior managers, and is short enough that it might be finished on a cross-country flight.

The four areas of IP are patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret. Palfrey first addresses the prevailing “sword and shield” IP strategy by pointing out that it benefits lawyers more than organizations. He urges readers to “give special consideration to strategies of openness rather than exclusion, especially in the information context” (p. 3).

IP is a nonrival good- more than one party can use it simultaneously. The author points out that IP often gains in value the more that it is used, which is a flaw in the “full exclusion” approach. Palfrey is quite familiar with universities and libraries, and interestingly uses MIT’s OpenCourseWare as an example of using openness to increase assets. However, it’s important to establish ownership rights in order to give IP away (p. 56):

It may seem counterintuitive, but even the strategies of openness that I urge you to consider need to be grounded first in the system of rights in order to work smoothly.

Palfrey spends some time talking about open innovation, that is, using openly available or customer-generated information. For example, Zillow as well as legal publishers Lexis and Westlaw thrive in this environment. He cites a study (PDF) showing that the fair use economy in the U.S. supports hundreds of billions in exports, employs millions, and is growing by 5% annually. Palfrey warns that zealous protectionism can backfire, such as demanding royalties for using the song “Happy Birthday” (a demand that now appears fraudulent rather than protectionist).

Nonprofits as a special case are examined in Chapter 7. The differing missions of for-profits and nonprofits “opens up new possibilities” and can make IP strategy more important. Using libraries as an example, Palfrey suggests digitization in collaboration with for-profit partners, with a limited term of exclusivity during which the library receives royalties. Summarizing, he says (p. 120):

If the default in the for-profit world is to generate maximum revenues from the licensing of intellectual property, the default in the non-profit setting is probably to make intellectual property as broadly available as possible.

There are a few stumbles along the way- Palfrey occasionally uses the term “open access” in a confusingly loose way (p. 89, 105) despite discussing it accurately elsewhere (p. 118), and offers Google Wave (p. 68) as an example of open innovation (oops!). And he suggests that universities license IP in a nonexclusive way (p. 119), lowering fees for greater societal benefit (perhaps I’m too cynical, but I don’t see this happening).

I recommend this book as an introduction to IP in general- it’s a quick and informative read. Intellectual Property Strategy is available in Newman Library, and Palfrey’s book talk is below (beginning at 7:00).

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