From the abstract for Kyle K. Courtney’s Fair Use is a Right, Haters to the Left: A Primer for Libraries and Other Cultural Institutions (Mar. 29, 2018):
‘[I]n the 30 years of fair use’s modern statutory existence, a terrible myth has crept its way into the doctrine: fair use is an “affirmative defense.” This myth has created more controversy and misunderstanding of our most critical of all copyright exceptions. But, in the end, it is just a myth, and citizens, journalists, teachers, librarians, authors, students, artists, and others should work to dispel this myth. Fair use is a right.
This article outlines the history of fair use and the development of the “affirmative defense” myth. Part I discusses the origins and history of fair use and its development from English law. Part II reveals the treatises and other secondary sources that began to muddy the fair use doctrine. And Part III reveals how the myth was adapted into the common law by a few courts. Finally, in Part IV, the author offers three areas to examine and help reverse the affirmative defense myth: the accurate legislative history of fair use , the plain meaning textualism of the statute, and modern fair use case interpretation. Each of these studies will reveal that fair use is, and was always meant to be, a fundamental right.