I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked by a client or potential client whether they can include Element X from someone else’s game in their own game.  It’s a very difficult question to answer.  And no, I still don’t have a black box that spits out the correct answer, because there is no such thing.  However, the U.S. Copyright Office today launched its Fair Use Index.  The index is searchable by court/jurisdiction and categories of copyrighted works (e.g., computer programs, music, parody/satire, etc.), and also includes whether or not fair use was found, not found, or mixed ruling.  While this still won’t provide a 100% foolproof answer in any given situation, it is certainly a nice resource to see how courts have treated similar subject matter in the past.

The full press release from the U.S. Copyright Office is below:

April 28,

Copyright Office Publishes Index of Fair Use Decisions in Support of U.S.
Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante today announced the launch of the U.S. Copyright
Office’s Fair Use Index
, which is designed to provide the public
with searchable summaries of major fair use decisions. The Index was
undertaken in support of the 2013 Joint Strategic
Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement
prepared by the U.S. Intellectual
Property Enforcement Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President.

Although not
a substitute for legal advice, the Index is searchable by court and subject
matter and provides a helpful starting point for those wishing to better
understand how the federal courts have applied the fair use doctrine to
particular categories of works or types of use, for example, music,
internet/digitization, or parody.

doctrine of fair use has been an essential aspect of our copyright law for
nearly 175 years,” said Pallante, “but it has too often been a mystery to
good-faith users who seek more detail about its application. It has been a
pleasure coordinating this practical and important resource with the U.S. Intellectual Property Coordinator’s office.”

doctrine of fair use is a vital aspect of U.S. copyright law,” said Danny
Marti, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at the White
House, “and it is applied regularly in our daily life. I commend Register
Pallante and the Copyright Office for producing this important resource—a
resource that not only helps to make the doctrine more accessible, but
also serves to re-emphasize the significance of this right as part of our
culture. Indeed, it is the combination of a strong copyright system with a
right of fair use that encourages creativity, promotes innovation and respects
our freedom of speech and expression.”

goal of the Index is to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible
and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court
opinions, including by category and type of use (e.g., music, Internet/digitization, parody).

The Fair Use Index may be accessed on the
Copyright Office’s website at http://copyright.gov/fair-use/index.html or via the U.S.
Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/intellectualproperty.

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