Law Firm Copying and Fair Use: An Examination of Different Purpose and Fair Use Markets
37 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2014 Last revised: 1 Nov 2015
Date Written: September 29, 2014
In several recent lawsuits, publishers sued law firms for copyright infringement. The lawsuits focused on making unlicensed copies of scholarly articles to file with patent applications, including copies for the firms’ internal use and for the firms’ clients. In two of these cases, lower court judges determined that the making of unlicensed copies was fair use. The decisions hinged on transformative use, focusing on the defendant’s purpose for using the works. There was no alteration or change in the works. The judges found fair use, despite the possible availability of licensing.
These patent application cases fit within a larger category of cases involving the use of copyrighted works in judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings. This article uses these cases as a vehicle to review the use of purpose in fair use analysis. It advocates that the review of the character and purpose of a use should include a deeper examination of the policies and societal interests underlying the use. This broader consideration is especially important if a plaintiff asserts the presence of a ready market for the payment of fees for use of a copyrighted work. This article explores the determination of a fair use market as a way to support the unlicensed use of copyrighted works although a ready market exists for the payment of fees. These cases offer an excellent model for the analysis necessary to determine a fair use market.
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