Foreword: Fair Use in the Digital Age, and Campbell v. Acuff-Rose at 21

Zahr K. Said, University of Washington School of Law


If Campbell had remained a narrow pop-culture case—a doctrinal one-hit wonder—it would not have possessed the capacity to generate so much enthusiasm, and such heated debate, among scholars and practitioners of high caliber. Yet gathered at the University of Washington School of Law for two days in April 2015 were forty of the leading and emerging experts in copyright law in the United States, to discuss the impact the case has had and to speculate about the directions fair use law will take in light of this watershed opinion.

It remains, by many accounts, one of the three most important fair use opinions in American law. Reflecting on Campbell’s wide and deep footprint in the case law over the twenty-one years since the case was handed down forms the purpose for our Symposium and for this collection of excellent scholarly papers in the Washington Law Review.

To assess how and why the case has seemed to have so great an impact on copyright case law, the Washington Law Review has turned to eight authors to explore various issues associated with the opinion, from its arguments’ internal justifications and origins to its effect on lower courts’ decision-making.

In this Foreword, I will offer a few thoughts to explain Campbell’s importance and to situate it historically, and I will touch briefly on the far-ranging contributions made by the very accomplished Articles in this Symposium issue.