The fair use doctrine in copyright law balances expressive freedoms by permitting one to use another's copyrighted expression under certain circumstances. The doctrine's extreme context-sensitivity renders it of little value to those who require reasonable ex ante certainty about the legality of a proposed use. In this Article, Professor Carroll advances a legislative proposal to create a Fair Use Board in the U.S. Copyright Office that would have power to declare a proposed use of another's copyrighted work to be a fair use. Like a private letter ruling from the IRS or a “no action” letter from the SEC, a favorable opinion would immunize only the petitioner from copyright liability for the proposed use, leaving the copyright owner free to challenge the same or similar uses by other parties. The copyright owner would receive notice and an opportunity to challenge a petition. Fair Use Rulings would be subject to administrative review in the Copyright Office and to judicial review by the federal courts of appeals. The Article closes with discussion of alternative approaches to fixing fair use.
Carroll, Michael W. “Fixing Fair Use.” North Carolina Law Review 85, no. 4 (May 2007): 1087-1154.