Private use as fair use: is it fair?

Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 37 (2):11-24 (2007)
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The age of digital technology has introduced new complications into the issues of fair and private use of copyrighted material. In fact, the question of private use of another's work has been transformed from a side issue in intellectual property jurisprudence into the very center of intellectual property discussions about rights and privileges in a networked world. This paper will explore the nuanced difference between fair and private use as articulated in the US and the European Copyright Laws. Part One will explain the legal use and meaning of fair use and its justifications. We maintain that it is almost impossible to resolve the issue of the fair/private use's legal nature, if one has not previously resolved copyright's legal nature. Legal resolution of such conflicts, as we shall demonstrate, follows different rules, and the messages sent to users and authors vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction. Part Two will examine the issue of Private Use as Fair Use by Design. We will look at the impact of Digital Rights Management on fair use and explore if the nature of private use as fair use has changed because we are dealing with the protection of digital content. We will show that protecting digital works by code, via various digital rights management schemes is shrinking the public domain of information and restricting private use as fair use.



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