The first step in creating this code was to conduct an in-depth survey, using long-
form interviews, with 65 librarians at a diverse array of academic and research
institutions in the United States, from Ivy League colleges to rural satellite campuses.
The results demonstrated clearly both that fair use is an essential component of
copyright exemptions for librarians, and also that they lacked a clear sense of
what they and their peers might agree to as appropriate employment of fair use in
recurrent situations.2 As a result, librarians frequently did not use their fair use rights
when they could have, and they overestimated the level of conflict between the
strictures of copyright law on the one hand and their respective libraries’ missions
on the other. The cost of this uncertainty was amplified because many research and
academic librarians routinely act as the de facto arbiters of copyright practice for their
institutions and the constituencies they serve.
Working librarians with many different institutional roles at a wide range of
institutions then gathered together in a series of small group discussions about fair
use held in five cities between October 2010 and August 2011. In each conversation,
participants were asked to discuss a series of brief hypothetical examples designed
to raise questions about fair use and its limitations. Conversations revealed that
members of this community understand that their mission depends on copyright,
both the protection it provides for those who have already produced knowledge and
the important rights it creates for those who need access to copyrighted material
to enable learning, scholarship, and creativity. Their understanding of fair use,
represented below, is grounded in this understanding of copyright balance. To ensure
that the applications of fair use represented by the principles fall within the bounds of
reason, an outside panel of distinguished copyright experts reviewed this document.
However, this document is not intended and should not be construed as representing
their legal advice. With this information in hand, each institution can undertake its
own legal and risk analysis in light of its own specific facts and circumstances.
2. See Association of Research Libraries et al., Fair Use Challenges in Academic and Research Libraries
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