U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index

A database and search tool that provides the most recent cases and decisions related to different facets of fair use.


I ran across the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index recently. Since my legal training is from the Jackass School of Law, I’ve never attempted to dive into the deep end of legal research. But the approach of this search tool uses is tightly focused on the most recent cases relevant to the many different facets of fair use. It’s one of those hidden-gem resources you can find on government websites when you are looking for information that’s more than the Wikipedia version.

How the U.S. Copyright Office describes the Fair Use Index:

The Fair Use Index tracks a variety of judicial decisions to help both lawyers and non-lawyers* better understand the types of uses courts have previously determined to be fair—or not fair. The decisions span multiple federal jurisdictions, including the U.S. Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeal, and district courts. Please note that while the Index incorporates a broad selection of cases, it does not include all judicial opinions on fair use. The Copyright Office will update and expand the Index periodically…

For each decision, we have provided a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. You may browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts. The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves. We have provided the full legal citation, however, allowing those who wish to read the actual decisions to access them through free online resources (such as Google Scholar and Justia), commercial databases (such as Westlaw and LEXIS), or the federal courts’ PACER electronic filing system, available at www.pacer.gov.

*By coincidence, “non-lawyering” was my major at the Jackass School of Law.