Transcript of Fair Use Guidelines Q & A Forum at 2012 VRA Conference

  • Cara Hirsch ARTstor
  • Allan T. Kohl Minneapolis College of Art and Design
  • Gretchen Wagner ARTstor
  • Molly Tighe Archivist, Mattress Factory Museum and Archives Consultant, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Keywords: Fair Use, VRA Fair Use Guidelines, copyright, academic publishing, image use, code of best practice


During the 2012 VRA conference, the question and answer forum on the Visual Resource Association’s Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study included discussion of the context for creating a code of best practice, an overview of the statement elements, and audience member’s questions and concerns about the statement’s application. Allan Kohl, Visual Resources Librarian at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, discusses the VRA statement on fair use as an extension of the VRA’s decades-long efforts to provide guidance to its members on the application of fair use. These efforts have included participation in the CONFU conference in 1998, the creation of Image Collection Guidelines document in1998, the creation of Copy-photography Computator in 2001, and the creation of Digital Image Rights Calculator in 2007. Cara Hirsh, Deputy Counsel for ARTstor, relates these efforts to the increasingly prevalent use of codes of best practice within communities that regularly rely on fair use, citing the documentary filmmaker community and the Center for Social Media as examples. These codes of best practice establish a community’s custom and practice which, she notes, is looked to by courts when considering whether or not a use is fair.

Gretchen Wagner, General Counsel, Secretary, and Vice-President of Administration of ARTstor, follows with an overview of the VRA Statement on Fair Use, noting the experts consulted, the principles followed, and the carve-out made for vendor-supplied images. While the majority of the use case scenarios outlined in the VRA Statement address non-controversial uses, Ms. Wagner notes the inclusion of a use case scenario in which images appearing in theses and dissertations are considered to be fair. Audience questions cover topics ranging from advocacy, limited duration and limited geographic licenses, the crisis in academic publishing, and concerns over risk assessments and open-web publishing. The session concludes with a exhortation to share the VRA Statement on Fair Use with colleagues, counsel, and those concerned with the use of images in teaching, research, and study.

Author Biography

Cara Hirsch, ARTstor

Allan Kohl, Visual Resources Librarian at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and Cara Hirsh, Deputy Counsel for AFTstor, are the current Co-Chairs of the VRA Intellectual Property Rights Committee. Former Co-Chair of the Intellectual Property Rights Committee, Gretchen Wagner is General Counsel, Secretary, and Vice President of Administration for ARTstor. Molly Tighe, transcriber, is Archivist at the Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh, PA and Archives Consultant for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Feature Articles