AU Law and Communication Professors Develop Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts

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Visual artists struggle with questions of copyright permissions. Now, the struggle is over: a resource of best recommended practices related to copyright questions and issues is available and will help guide visual artists as they create a new culture.

Artists often wonder if it’s legal to pull a Twitter feed into a work of digital art. Art historians want to write about the color movement, but can’t spend years working with estates to get permission for illustrations. A museum curator would love to create digital sites to showcase a trailblazing exhibition.

Visual artists face these situations, and many more as they struggle with questions of copyright permissions. Now, the struggle is over: a resource of best recommended practices related to copyright questions and issues is available and will help guide visual artists as they create a new culture.

“The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts” is available on the American University School of Communication website and is coauthored by Peter Jaszi, professor of law in the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at AU’s Washington College of Law, and Patricia Aufderheide, university professor at AU’s School of Communication and director of the Center for Media & Social Impact.

The Code was initiated by the College Art Association (CAA) in 2012 and its creation a multi-year effort led by Professors Aufderheide and Jaszi. The process involved thousands of visual artists belonging to CAA who answered a survey, were interviewed, or met in deliberative groups over the last two years.

“Although the visual-arts community is impressively diverse, including art-makers, individual scholars, and institutional users, its members came together determined to reach a useful consensus. The Code reflects the range of perspectives and expertise the participants brought to the process,” said Jaszi.

If past experience is any guide, the Code will give members of the visual-arts community the freedom to make more and better work. This is the 10th such code that Aufderheide and Jaszi have generated with creative communities. In each Code to date, creators have not only made work more efficiently with less cost and delay, but also been able to innovate.

“Codes of best practices have proven enormously successful in enabling members of other creative communities to do their work well and effectively. They allow individuals to make judgments knowing where they fall in relation to the thinking of their peers—and that lowers risk. Further, codes give museums, broadcasters, insurers, publishers, educational institutions, and their lawyers a new and valuable tool to use in making better, more reasonable assessments of risk,” says Aufderheide.

On Friday, February 13, from 12:30-2:00 p.m., Professors Jaszi and Aufderheide will host a session during the CAA ‘s Annual Conference in New York City at the New York Hilton Midtown. The session is free and open to the public.

American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.

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Kelly Alexander
American University
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