According to Inside Higher Ed, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the growing definition of what fair use of copyrighted material means in the academic world. As universities adopt new technologies for the storage and delivery of information, the shifting understanding of what fair use means is very important to administrators and faculty alike.
Last year, a federal judge rejected multiple copyright infringement cases filed by publishers against Georgia State University. The school has an electronic repository of supplementary course materials available online for students to use. Those materials are usually chapters or excerpts of larger works and that is what prompted the litigation. The judge decided not to hear 94 of the 99 cases brought against the university, concluding that the material used was comprised in each case less than 10 percent of the original publication and thus was a fair use. This case was closely watched by many in academia and publishing, as the meaning of fair use in the digital age is still a contentious issue. A similar repository at the University of Michigan was also found to be legal.
Inside Higher Ed recommends faculty members understand their role as both producers and consumers of copyrighted content. Fair use issues will take some time to adjust to the digital age, but with education and further court decisions they will soon become more predictable.