Fair Use and Culture: Comments on the Gowers Review
16 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2011
Date Written: May 19, 2008
The fair use of copyrighted works is one of the most important issues facing copyright law and the digital world today. Many aspects of it, however, are sometimes unclear. For example, under what circumstances is it legally possible to create a private copy? What are the authors’ rights that members of society should be aware of before members distribute copyrighted materials.
It is cliché to say that culture is constantly changing, yet it is impossible to deny. Fields such as science, psychology, and sociology constantly alter the world. Technical developments often enhance these changes. Indeed, decades ago, stem cell research and cloning seemed unimaginable, much like the mass usage of computers today might have been perceived more than a century ago. Social judgment of such novelties changes constantly and these aspects of modernity will inevitably become part of our culture with time.
Some elements of the technological revolution leave their marks on copyright law as well. Tape and video recorders were only the beginning of an unbelievable flurry of development that grew to such vast proportions that almost every aspect of copyrightable works is affected by such technologies. Centuries ago, people were only concerned with pirated editions of printed works. Today, the grandiose scope of the digital world means that every copyrighted work is, in some way, endangered by technological innovations.
This article introduces the concept of fair use of copyrighted materials, places it into a current context, and examines how fair use can affect cultural development. Specifically, does fair use improve culture or deteriorate it? To explore this question, this article examines relevant portions of the Gowers Review ('the Review').
Keywords: fair use, copyright law, England, Gowers Review, peer-to-peer, P2P, European Union
JEL Classification: K11, K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation