Fair Use and Public Media

Digital Media Arts Lab

PIJIP faculty members work to assure that the copyright fair use doctrine remains vibrant, in both analog and digital contexts. Working closely with AU’s Center for Social Media and a number of non-profit organizations, we seek to explain and promote interpretations of copyright, communications and other laws that protect and facilitate the growth of public media. We applied our fair use initiative to documentary films, user-generated content on participatory Internet platforms, a new media format that can help the public to recognize and understand common social problems.

PIJIP’s work in this area includes developing seminal “Best Practices” guidelines for fair use by non-fiction filmmakers, supporting research on the effects of intellectual property on the practices of media makers, and organizing and convening scholarly conferences.

librariesThe Code of Best Practices for Academic and Research Libraries

This is a code of best practices in fair use devised specifically by and for the academic and research library community. It enhances the ability of librarians to rely on fair use by documenting the considered views of the library community about best practices in fair use, drawn from the actual practices and experience of the library community itself.




RFU - Cover 80pxReclaiming Fair Use

Released in July 2011, this book by Professors Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media, and Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law in the Washington College of Law at American University, urges a robust embrace  of a principle long-embedded in copyright law, but too often poorly understood—fair use. By challenging the widely held notion that current copyright law has become unworkable and obsolete in the era of digital technologies, Reclaiming Fair Use promises to reshape the debate in both scholarly circles and the creative community.


Best Pract. in Fair Use - PoetryCode of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry

This code of best practices helps poets understand when they and others have the right to excerpt, quote and use copyrighted material in poetry. To create this code, poets came together to articulate their common expectations, facilitated by Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media; Katharine Coles, director of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute at the Poetry Foundation; Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law in the Washington College of Law at American University; and Jennifer Urban, Professor of Law at the University of California Berkeley.


Association of Research Libraries LogoFair Use Challenges in Academic and Research Libraries

This report summarizes research into the current application of fair use and other copyright exemptions to meet the missions of U.S. academic and research libraries.  It is the product of a collaboration between the Association of Research Libraries, the AU Center for Social Media, and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.


screening-teaserimageCopyright and International Documentary Film

PIJIP's program with the Ford Foundation and South African filmmaker organizations aims to explore (1) the problems that current interpretations of South African copyright law may pose to the development of the documentary film industry, and (2) opportunities to address those problems through changes in law or the practice of filmmakers.


DancersBest Practices in Fair Use of Dance Related Materials

PIJIP and the Dance Heritage Coalition have collaborated to produce a guide for librarians, archivists, curators, and other collections staff who work with dance-related materials to use the fair use doctrine where they need presumptively copyrighted materials to meet their significant cultural, educational, and other institutional mandates.


Online video - Cropped photo 2Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

Collaboratively created by a team of media scholars and lawyers, Best Practices will allow users to make remixes, mashups, and other common online genres with the knowledge that they are staying within copyright law. The code identifies, among other things, six kinds of unlicensed uses of copyrighted material that may be considered fair, under certain limitations.


Peter Jaszi

Frequently Asked Questions on Fair Use

By Pat Aufderheide, Peter Jaszi, Maura Ugarte and Michael Miller
Does the Documentary Filmmaker’s Statement of Best Practices actually carry weight with broadcasters and insurance companies? What is the appropriate length of a clip to fair use? Does it matter if you are a non-profit organization vs. a commercial organization? Is fair use stealing? ...and more.


RRR CritterRecut, Reframe, Recycle

When college kids make mashups of Hollywood movies, are they violating the law? Not necessarily, according to the latest study on copyright and creativity from PIJIP and the AU Center for Social Media. It shows that many uses of copyrighted material in today’s online videos are eligible for fair use consideration.


Copyright The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy

PIJIP's report shows that the fundamental goals of media literacy education are compromised by unnecessary copyright restrictions. As a result of poor guidance, counterproductive guidelines, and fear, teachers use less effective teaching techniques, teach and transmit erroneous copyright information, fail to share innovative instructional approaches, and do not take advantage of new digital platforms.


CDs The Good, the Bad, and the Confusing: User-Generated Video Creators on Copyright

In this study, undergraduate and graduate college students who upload online video were asked to describe their practices and attitudes on using copyrighted material to make new work and on the value to them of their own copyright.


Coke Building - Cropped"Yes, You Can" - Where You Don't Even Need Fair Use

The answers to some of filmmakers’ most common clearance questions don’t really lie in the realm of “fair use” at all, but fall under the heading of “free use.” Some examples include buildings that can be seen from public areas, any works made by the federal goverrnment, and reproductions of public domain works in museums or private collections.


Best Practices - Fair Use for FilmmakersDocumentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use

The Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, Independent Feature Project, International Documentary Association, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, and Women in Film and Video, in consultation with PIJIP and the AU Center for Social Media.


Capitol Fair Use: Its Effects on Consumers and Industry

Testimony of PIJIP Director Peter Jaszi before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, November 16 2005. The link above leads to Prof. Jaszi's written statement. To view a webcast of the hearing, click here.



  • User Generated Content and Copyright, April 10 (afternoon), 2007.
In collaboration with the Center for Social Media at the AU School of Communications, this event will discuss the implications of copyright law on the growing use of platforms such as YouTube to facilitate user generated media content. Rappateurs' Report.
  • American Library Association, Copyright, Fair Use and Access to Library Holdings, June 22, 2007.

This conference will focus on the balance between user and owner rights and interpretations of copyright law that can usefully support the media librarian’s role as a facilitator for the public’s access to audio-visual media.


Attribution for graphcis posted on flickr.com under a creative commons license: Photo of Digital Media Arts lab at Huntington University by Laffy4K. Photo of copyright C by DiscourseMarker. Photo of CDs by Chen Wenbo. Photo of person viewing online video by mobilechina2007. Photo of the Coca-Cola Xperience Center by Steffe. Photo of US Capitol dome by nKarthik.