Odyssean Fair Use

Larry Lessig reports on the status of Schloss v. Sweeney, a DJ action in federal district court in the Bay Area in which a Joyce scholar seeks to confirm her legal right, as a matter of fair use, to reproduce certain materials.  Late last week, Judge James Ware denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss [pdf], meaning that the fair use claim, and a related claim of copyright misuse, can go forward.  The New Yorker reviewed the dispute in a long piece last June.

This is good news, of course, and on more than one front.  First, in the context of Joycean scholarship, it offers the prospect that some of the copyright clouds surrounding that discipline eventually may be lifted.  Second, while the judge didn’t rule on the merits of the plaintiff’s claims, the order supports the idea that would-be copyright defendants may use the law strategically, especially with sophisticated help from pro bono lawyers and IP law clinics, just as copyright plaintiffs have long done.  Third, and as Larry notes in his post, the dispute offers a helpful counternarrative to the usual public story about copyright and IP piracy.