Fair Use & Access to All Human Knowledge


This is Fair Use Week, an annual recognition of the most important user right in U.S. copyright law. Today we celebrate fair use and fair dealing along with a host of other participating groups and organizations.

The fundamental goal of fair use aligns with the Internet Archive’s mission of providing universal access to all human knowledge. Fair use is often called the “safety valve” of copyright law, built in to ensure that the protection granted to authors doesn’t stifle the very creativity and innovation it was designed to promote. Libraries serve as guardians of the public’s access to information and facilitate education, research, scholarship, creativity, and discovery—activities essential to the functioning of our democratic society. Fair use plays a similar role in the legal world, allowing access and reuse of materials in order to criticize or comment on them, for educational purposes, or in ways that alter the original with a new message or meaning.

Over the years, the flexible nature of fair use has supported the creation and use of new technologies, like the VCR for home recording of television programs, or search engines for the web. It has also helped libraries to adapt to new technologies and bring traditional library functions into the digital age, for example, by allowing libraries to digitize books in their collections for the purposes of building search tools and providing access to the blind and print disabled. Fair use allows artists and musicians to reuse materials to comment on society and the world around them, bloggers to use photos of the people and organizations they are criticizing, and citizens to use videos to comment on the effectiveness of their elected officials. Fair use also allows regular people to engage with our culture, from debating the color of a dress to making creative mashups of existing works.

People across the web have engaged in the creative remixing of materials hosted here at the Archive. For example, we have a collection dedicated to mashups created from the Prelinger film archives. Take a look at one of our favorites: https://archive.org/details/bonobocirrus

Want to make your own mashup from our collection, but not sure how fair use works exactly? Check out this guide to best practices in fair use for online video, which provides some helpful guidelines for understanding how to use fair use. Fair use week is the perfect time to learn about and exercise your own fair use rights.

3 thoughts on “Fair Use & Access to All Human Knowledge

  1. Christopher

    The mission of the Fair use week is to Fair Use/Fair Dealing Weak is an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.

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