Last week was the first time the UK celebrated Fair Use / Fair Dealing week and here’s a summary of the events we helped to organise as well as some reflections.
Firstly it was great to run four online events, attended by well over 200 people across the week – many from our community, others who were newcomers. The events all attempted to provide an overview of the importance of fair dealing exceptions in the UK while recognising they are not a panacea. We discussed copyright exceptions such as quotation, illustration for instruction, parody, caricature and pastiche and the role they play providing legal access to content, as a contrast to licences and permission.
The launch event on Monday 21 February at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies saw us joined by one of the founders of Fair Use week, Kyle K Courtney from Harvard University who spoke about the idea behind creating the week in 2014 as well as an overview of how Fair Use works in the US. We followed this up with a look at what Fair Dealing is and how it might apply in a number of contexts. The keynote was given by Dr Emily Hudson on her research with Prof Tanya Aplin on researching quotation norms. Aplin and Bentley’s recent book on the quotation exception was mentioned for the first of many times in the week, during her talk. They argue that the UK quotation exception should be interpreted broadly, according to their proposed ‘global fair mandatory use‘ provision in the Berne Convention (the foundational international treaty governing global copyright laws). Although global mandatory fair use is a contested concept, we saw how valuable a broad interpretation of the fair dealing quotation exception could be, not just in publishing but also in other areas of activity. Emily spoke about the current research she and Tanya are doing on publishers’ quotation norms and this raised a discussion on the ‘permission first’ culture that predominates in much of the industry. We also got into discussing whether open access publishing was an opportunity to challenge the status quo and create new norms, or in fact whether open access makes relying on copyright exceptions more risky. The session ended with a panel discussion between myself, Chris, Kyle and Emily and questions from the floor. It was a great event to get us started for the week and a recording of the IALS launch event is available online.
On Wednesday Chris put together a fantastic event at University of Kent on copyright and creative reuse. His speakers included three Kent lecturers who teach in creative subjects and rely on fair dealing exceptions in their work. Dr Richard Misek spoke on using found footage in documentary film making and his challenges with trying to get permission and relying on exceptions. Dr Alexandra Covaci spoke about teaching digital arts students about copyright and related intellectual property laws, and the importance of copyright exceptions in her field. She and Chris talked about using Copyright the Card Game as a way of teaching students about the law. Finally we interviewed Dr Ben Marsh a historian at the University of Kent, but who focused on his lockdown celebrity success making parody songs with his family. While these songs (See the Marsh Family on YouTube) kept many of us going during the pandemic, Ben has experienced some interesting copyright challenges associated with this activity. Chris and I had spoken to Ben last year in a Copyright Waffle podcast, so it was great to catch up with him and hear how his knowledge of copyright has grown, and discuss some of the issues he’s been grappling with since achieving stardom.
On Thursday we had two events, the first organised by the SCURL copyright group and the second in the afternoon, hosted by the Bloomsbury Learning Exchange. Greg Walters chaired the SCURL event which was led by Debbie McDonnell Intellectual Property Manager at the British Council. Debbie spoke about the British Council’s work as an education and cultural organisation and gave a fascinating overview of how fair dealing applies to teaching online in a global context. Greg plans to write up a blog post on this event as it was an informal coffee morning and not recorded. Meanwhile in the afternoon at the BLE event, Sarah Sherman and Elizabeth Charles chaired a lively panel discussion with librarians, copyright specialists and learning technologists – in our panel we were joined by Stephen Penton from City, University of London and Samantha Ahern from UCL. A recording of the BLE event is available on You Tube.
In addition to these four events the week coincided with our first in-person teaching sessions for a while. Chris ran two teaching sessions at UCL and I ran a session at City. In both instances we had been asked to do an introduction to copyright for LIS students, so it was a fun opportunity to play Copyright the Card Game. We’ve made a video to introduce people to Copyright the Card Game, which also allows us to play a slightly shortened version of the game. This is available on the Copyright Literacy You Tube channel. The opportunity to get back into the classroom was really helpful as we have recently completing an article (awaiting peer review) on our games and using a playful approach to teach copyright. I think for me Fair Dealing week was a chance to remind people how important it is to have exceptions to copyright to keep a balance in the law.
Preparing for our introduction was also a great opportunity to dig into some copyright history and look at the origins of Fair Dealing in the courts of 18th Century England, where ‘fair abridgement’ was common practice in publishing, partly to makes great tomes accessible to the wider public. We covered this in the post we wrote for Kyle’s blog on Copyright at Harvard Library. Much of what we do to educate and entertain people is about this exactly. To teach, to inform, to entertain we need to draw on the work of others. I reflected on how I think licences play an important role in education, but it’s so vital that we raise awareness of copyright exceptions. While these are not user rights in the UK, they are defences you might use in court and they play a really important role in allowing us to teach our students in creative ways. Copyright exceptions also are underpinned by fundamental principles of good academic practice which includes attributing our sources and allowing us to build on the work of others.
We are looking forward to Fair Dealing Week 2023 already!