“Fair use” is a legal doctrine creating what has been called a “situational public domain” within the exclusive rights that copyright gives to content owners. Fair use rights have turned out to be hard to exercise in practice, however, partly because the fair use statute is vaguely worded and partly because specific guidance has arisen only from narrowly-focused case law.
How might fair use be reclaimed as an expressive right? One answer has been for particular creative communities to articulate their own “best practices” in fair use, to reclaim, that is, the breadth of expression that the statute was intended to allow by clearly stating their own norms regarding the circulation of knowledge.
Lewis Hyde’s talk will review the history of fair use, describe work now being done on the best practices model, and propose for discussion an “educational fair use project” targeted to teachers and scholars in American higher education.
Lewis Hyde is a poet, essayist, translator, and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination. His 1983 book, The Gift, illuminates and defends the non-commercial portion of artistic practice. Trickster Makes This World (1998) uses a group of ancient myths to argue for the kind of disruptive intelligence all cultures need if they are to remain lively, flexible, and open to change. Hyde is currently at work on a book about our “cultural commons,” that vast store of ideas, inventions, and works of art that we have inherited from the past and continue to produce.
A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde teaches during the fall semesters at Kenyon College, where he is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing. During the rest of the year he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.