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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, 2015

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

“The 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.”

“The 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.”

The 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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