Washington Law Review

Essay

Possible Futures of Fair Use

June 30, 2015 | 90 Wash. L. Rev. 815

Abstract: This Article celebrates the twenty-one-year majority status of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. Campbell has unquestionably had transformative impacts on the doctrine of fair use in U.S. copyright case law, making several significant contributions that go well beyond the Court’s endorsement of the “transformative” nature of a use as tipping in favor of fairness. Several notable cases have built upon the analytical foundation established in Campbell.

This Article also considers possible futures of fair use. What will fair use look like twenty-one years from now? Will it stay much as it is right now, or will it change, and if so, how? Some critics think that fair use has gone too far and are urging a return to a more restrictive scope for the doctrine. This Article considers and responds to various critiques of the present state of fair use law, including whether fair use is consistent with international treaty obligations. This Article concludes that fair use will survive these critiques and will continue to evolve to provide a useful mechanism for balancing the interests of authors and other rights holders, on the one hand, and subsequent authors and other users of copyrighted works, on the other hand. It discusses some new horizons that commentators have imagined for fair use to address certain problems that beset copyright law today. Of the possible futures of fair use, that which would preserve the status quo and expand fair use into new horizons is the one most likely to occur and most to be desired.

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