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FEPP Launches Fair Use Empowerment Initiative

February 27, 2006

For Immediate Release
Monday, February 27, 2007

FEPP Launches Fair Use Empowerment Initiative

The Brennan Center report Will Fair Use Survive? documented some of the ways that America’s current intellectual property system threatens free expression – especially the right to “fair use” under copyright law. Artists, scholars, and activists are often confused about their legal rights and responsibilities, and when faced with a challenge to their work, many of them don’t know where to turn for basic information. They face yet more hurdles in locating representation: private attorneys often find themselves in “conflict of interest” situations, while legal service organizations and impact litigation groups have limited resources available to devote to copyright and fair use.

Following up on the report, the Brennan Center’s Fair Use Empowerment Initiative is developing new resources to help artists, scholars, activists, and others understand and defend their rights to fair use and free expression. Initially, the Initiative will develop informational material that is comprehensible to non-experts. Resources will include overviews of fair use and expressive rights, basic information about potential legal risks, and practical examples of responses to threatening “cease and desist” letters from copyright and trademark owners.

The Initiative will also work to expand existing pro bono legal resources. Such resources may include sample court documents, a network of attorneys willing and able to defend fair use claims, and new forms of pro bono representation through law student clinical programs.

Finally, the Initiative hopes to ameliorate the effects of the “section 512” takedown process (section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which enables copyright owners to demand that ISPs remove material from the Internet, without any legal judgment that it is unlawful). We plan to develop information resources for ISPs to educate them about their own rights, as well as their responsibilities to their subscribers. Best practices for managing the takedown process may help ISPs find a good balance between efficiently processing section 512 takedown letters and protecting the rights and interests of their users.

Laura Quilter is coordinating the Fair Use Empowerment Initiative. You can email her at .