The report (click for PDF), released Monday by a pair of free-expression advocates at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, argues that so-called "fair use" rights are under attack. It suggests six major steps for change, including reducing penalties for infringement and making a greater number of pro bono lawyers available to defend alleged fair users.
Fair use is a longstanding principle of copyright law. Its aim is to allow people to copy or quote copyright works without the permission of their authors, provided that they do so, in the words of the statute, "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research." The law lays out a four-pronged approach for determining–if legal challenges against the work’s use occur–whether the use was, in fact, "fair."
But beyond that, "nobody really knows what it is, because in fact there is no precise, easy definition," said Marjorie Heins, coordinator of the Brennan Center’s Free Expression Policy Project and a co-author of the report, which was titled, "Will Fair Use Survive?"