Fair Users: Free Speech in Action

A Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop


Fair Users: Free Speech in Action is an interdisciplinary group of graduate students and faculty engaged with issues around fair use. In the U.S., fair use is a right that empowers scholars and artists to promote and cultivate the creation of new meaning and free expression by building upon culture that already exists. Through fair use, our practices are an extension of the freedom of speech.

This working group is an interdisciplinary collective of University of Michigan scholars and creative makers engaged with the power and rights of fair use in support of research and innovation. We come from law, the arts, art history, museum studies, engineering, and information sciences. In our group, we analyze and discuss the application of fair use in law, philosophy, the arts, technology/information sciences, journalism, and other disciplines. This group is a collaborative network of support among scholars who encounter and have to navigate complex issues of copyright in their work with some of us, for example, studying constitutional and copyright law, and others of us putting knowledge into practice through scholarship, rhetorical protest, and/or media activism.

Our workshop group discusses issues, such as: How do nuances of fair use, copyright, and trademark regulations enable or limit the right to free speech? Where does fair use intersect with our work? How are we each using it intentionally or unintentionally? How could using it more deliberately lead to better results? How can we leverage fair use to enhance our teaching, research, and advocacy? How can fair use empower us to develop critical comparisons, to build on existing research, or to propose more radical propositions? How do the protections of fair use change within domestic and international laws? Our workshops will be informed by a visiting speaker and by reading texts by experts in such related topics as First Amendment law, copyright and trademark law, free speech, publishing, the sourcing and appropriation of imagery in the visual arts, and best practices for applying fair use in the visual and screen arts, technology development, archives, and the press.


Our intention is to build a network of scholars who can support each others' work with fair use, across disciplines. If you're interested in joining the group for the full series of six workshops (September 2019 through March 2020), please contact Rebekah Modrak (rmodrak@umich.edu).

Current Participants

Ella Atkins, Professor, Aerospace Engineering — ematkins@umich.edu

Jack Bernard, Associate General Counsel, University of Michigan — bernar@umich.edu

Mark Clague, Professor, School of Music, Theatre & Dance — claguem@umich.edu

Paul Conway, Associate Professor, School of Information — pconway@umich.edu

Cristina del Valle, Senior Associate General Counsel, Metropolitan Museum of Art — Cristina.DelValle@metmuseum.org

Jessica Getman, Managing Editor, University of Michigan Gershwin Initiative - jgetman@umich.edu

Joan Kee, Professor, Art History — jkee@umich.edu

Sarah Keith, PhD Candidate, Classical Languages and Literatures — sckeith@umich.edu

Vishal Khandelwal, PhD Candidate, History of Art — vishalkh@umich.edu

Susan Kornfield, Adjunct Professor, University of Michigan Law School — SKornfield@bodmanlaw.com

Raven Lanier (Organizer) , Copyright Specialist, UM-Library Copyright Office — rnlanier@umich.edu

Artemis Leontis, Professor, Modern Greek Languages — aleontis@umich.edu

Melissa Levine (Organizer) , Lecturer, School of Information; Director, Copyright Office, University of Michigan Library — mslevine@umich.edu

Rebekah Modrak (Organizer), Professor, Stamps School of Art & Design (Organizer) — rmodrak@umich.edu

Abhishek Narula, MFA Candidate, Stamps School of Art & Design — abnarula@umich.edu

Faith Sparr, Lecturer, Communication Studies — fsparr@umich.edu

Brad Taylor, Associate Director, Museum Studies Program — bltaylor@umich.edu

Charles Watkinson, Associate University Librarian for Publishing / Director, University of Michigan Press — watkinc@umich.edu

Jeremy York (Organizer), 4th year PhD candidate, UM School of Information — jjyork@umich.edu