Copyright – Fair Use Decisions Database

The murky and confusing world of fair use litigation has been partially illuminated by the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index. The stated purpose of the Index is that it”… tracks a variety of judicial decisions to help both lawyers and non-lawyers better understand the types of uses courts have previously determined to be fair—or not fair. The decisions span multiple federal jurisdictions, including the U.S. Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeal, and district courts. Please note that while the Index incorporates a broad selection of cases, it does not include all judicial opinions on fair use.” It is a user-friendly interface, allowing the researcher the ability to limit decisions to specific jurisdictions as well as to direct the search to certain contextual categories within fair use. Results will list the cases in reverse chronological order and contain the case name/citation, year, key facts, the contested fair use issue, holdings (findings), and outcome. For instance, limiting the jurisdiction to the Supreme Court elicits only four cases  A surprising drawback of this site is that the case citation is not linked to the full text of the decision. That can be rectified by accessing Federal Law: Judicial Opinions that has rulings back to the 1990s; bound decisions by the Supreme Court, called the United States Reports, are available from before its beginning. (We know, law is sometimes confusing.) Summaries of Fair Use Cases from Stanford is also a worthy site and Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States makes for informative reading as well.

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