February 20-24 marks "Fair Use Week," a time when researchers and librarians around the world take some time to reflect on the best practices and procedures related to fair use. Being an academic publisher, Indiana University Press spends a lot of time working through fair use considerations, and rights manager Stephen Williams took some time to share what fair use means to a publisher like IU Press.
IU Press: What does “fair use” mean in the context of academic publishing? Why is it important?
Stephen Williams: The concept of “fair use” in copyright law guarantees the right to re-use material that has copyright protection, under certain circumstances, without payment or permission from the copyright holder. Obviously, for the academic world publishing, it is an incredibly important principle because it guarantees the right to re-use previously published material. For example, if an IU Press author wanted to quote a short sentence from a book or journal article, without “fair use” they may have either seek permission or give payment for the usage. In short, fair use guarantees the spread of information and ideas.
IUP: How does what you do play into the world of fair use?
SW: According to Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act, four factors must be taken into consideration when claiming fair use, and they cover things like purpose of the reuse, nature of the copyright work, amount of material being reused, and the potential effective of use on the market value of the original work. All requests to reuse material from IU Press publications come across my desk, so one of the first things I do when reviewing the request is to determine whether or not it can be claimed as “fair use.” If the request corresponds well to the four factors, we acknowledge that the request is fair use, and if it doesn’t then we proceed to discuss licensing terms.
IUP: Why is it important for authors to understand the meaning of fair use?
SW: As fair use claims can be a two-way street, it's important for authors to understand fair use from both the creative and the reuse points of view. First, when they are creating their material, it's imperative that they are clear on what can be claimed as fair use. Can they use that specific photo they like? Can they use their favorite poem or song lyric as an epigraph? Can they quote a paper by another author that reinforces their own point?
Second, as authors often receive a share of the licensing revenue from their work, it is important that they understand how claims of fair use might impact their income. A poet, for example, might expect to make a good share of their income on a given title from the licensing of their individual poems, rather than from sales of the book of poetry. Knowing whether a poem can be re-published under fair use will definitely affect their expectations.
IUP: Are there any common misconceptions about fair use?
SW: The most common misconception around fair use is the amount of material that can be used as fair use. You often hear things like “less than 500 words or 10% of the total length of the book is automatically fair use.” This is totally false; there is no specific word count that you can point to when it comes to claiming fair use. An entire poem might only be 50 words, but you would have a difficult time claiming the fair use of a poem. The only way to determine whether something can be reasonably claimed as fair use is to use the four factors.