Washington Law Review

Essay

Campbell as Fair Use Blueprint?

June 30, 2015 | 90 Wash. L. Rev. 597

Abstract: Friends, copyright geeks, I come not to bury Campbell, but to praise it. I might reasonably be considered a biased critic as Campbell took a number of suggestions from an article I wrote. Biased or not, I submit Campbell is a beautifully reasoned opinion, which has demonstrated in its twenty-one years that it provides a healthy framework for fair use analysis. That framework promotes the overall objectives of copyright; it protects the interests of rights holders; and it guards against putting “manacles upon science.”

This is not to say that every case decided under Campbell has been indisputably correct. But disagreement with some decisions of lower courts is not a condemnation of Campbell’s blueprint. Furthermore, fair use decisions will often involve difficult appraisals, susceptible to reasonable disagreement. Nor is it surprising to find inconsistency in lower court opinions. Copyright cases come infrequently, especially those with fair use questions. Many judges are often confronting the complexities of fair use for the first time, and may be quick to reach out for what look like easy handholds that are often based on errant dicta.

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