117. “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry” Released

Compiled by the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute in collaboration with American University’s Center for Social Media and Washington College of Law

CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetrymagazine, is pleased to announce the publication of “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry.” The code, which aims to better facilitate poetic innovation and distribution by both clarifying fair use and anticipating potential clearance issues, was facilitated by Katharine Coles of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi of American University, and Jennifer Urban of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

Devised specifically by and for the poetry community, this best practices code will serve as a guide to reasonable and appropriate uses of copyrighted materials in new and old media. The document instructs poets, teachers, scholars, and others about the opportunities and limitations of fair use for assistance in preventing permissions conflicts. It is available for free download at www.poetryfoundation.org/fairuse and www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use.

“This document,” says project advisor Lewis Hyde, “brings wonderful clarity to the otherwise opaque world of poetry permissions. It is a useful tool that should serve poets, critics, and publishers alike.” It also brings poets and poetry into the larger ongoing discussion about intellectual property and fair use. Like scholars, musicians, and other artists, poets are concerned both about protecting ownership of their work and about their ability to build on the works of others. “Anxiety and confusion over these issues are actually inhibiting both creative and scholarly work,” says the inaugural director of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, Katharine Coles. “There is actually significant consensus within the community over what constitutes fair use in a number of different situations. We hope this document will help poets, scholars, and teachers feel more confident in their exercise of fair use rights.”

Poets and writers will find the free document a useful reference when confronted with questions about how to present new work derived from “found” material, such as erasures; how websites should go about sharing poetry online; and whether or not a performance of a poet’s work is permissible. Other issues, such as epigraphs, quotations in criticism, and cases of parody or satire, are also addressed in the document.

The document joins other codes—including those directed at the documentary filmmaking community and online video creators—on the Center for Social Media’s website at American University. “It is inspiring to see such a prestigious creative community assert their fair use rights,” says CSM director Patricia Aufderheide. Legal scholar Peter Jaszi, at the Washington College of Law at American University, notes: “The path to making the most of fair use in poetry has never looked so straightforward.” Jennifer Urban, of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, says, “Poets’ thoughtful contribution to the family of community-based best practices is beneficial to us all.”

The code provides documentation of common understanding about best practices in fair use according to the poetry community and as supported by legal analysis. Work on this document resulted from research that the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute’s working group did on copyright and fair use for its publication Poetry and New Media: A Users’ Guide, which was released in February 2010 and is also available for free download at www.poetryfoundation.org/newmediaproject.

Katharine Coles and Lewis Hyde are available for interviews about this project. Please call 312.799.8016 to schedule a time to speak with them.


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